Day: January 9th, 2008

Extra Virgin territory

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008 | All Things, Eats, Friends

One of the venues CL, CSF and I had considered for dinner tonight was the brand new Bar Boulud, but we decided in the end in favor of the more established Extra Virgin. None of us had been yet to this “little gem of a restaurant,” so to borrow a phrase from NBC’s 1990s summer reruns campaign, it was new to us. Bar Boulud’s menu looks interesting, though — charcuterie and cheese, terrines and pâtés — so I hope to make it over there one evening soon.

Executive chef and co-owner Joey Fortunato (formerly of Layla, Scarabee, and the Tonic), together with partner Michele Gaton (former general manager of The Coffee Shop), opened Extra Virgin in the old Titou space in 2004. Their Mediterranean bistro proved so popular with West Village locals and destination diners alike that it expanded into the store next door in 2005, adding an extra 30 seats to the dining room.

Three years later, the restaurant still draws crowds every night, and knowing its reservations policy — none for parties smaller than 6 — we planned an early arrival, and managed to score one of the tightly packed wooden tables with hardly a wait. It was a case of good timing: by the time our food arrived, the dinner rush had set in, with patrons packing the long bar area and spilling onto West 4th Street. Extra Virgin offers the option of a few sidewalk tables: highly coveted in warmer months, but seemingly utilized even on chilly evenings like this one, by the intrepid (or impatient) few.

Extra Virgin

Under a faux burl wood panel — which CSF remarked, reminded him of his parents’ basement — we dipped our crusty bread slices into a plate of excellent olive oil: extra virgin, no doubt. The warmly appointed room was a charming mix of soothing blues, exposed brick walls, pressed tin ceilings, and oversize, gold-framed mirrors. Flickering candlelight makes for pretty dining companions, but not for good food photography.

No snapshots, then, of our Fritto Misto — a generous platter of hot and crispy calamari, rock shrimp, clams and zucchini, served with a spiced tomato dipping sauce. Very good, even if I accidentally bit into what I thought was a battered round of squash, but which turned out to be a deep-fried lemon slice. (The dining room really was quite dark.)

From the daily-changing “Classics” section of the menu, I chose the Oven Roasted Leg of Lamb with twice baked potatoes and green beans. The meat was hearty yet tender, and arrived medium rare without my specifying so. I’d be interested in sampling some of the other day’s specials, which include a coq au vin on Tuesdays, and Thursday’s whole roasted branzino, a fish which Fresh Direct describes as “a little like a perch, with a similar white, firm flake and a mild sweetness that will remind you of fresh scallops.” (Ooh, scallops.)

Extra Virgin

Really, though, this evening was more about catching up with old friends than about lingering over food. (The anxiously hovering servers made the latter nearly impossible, anyway.) We paid our tab, and set off into the night.

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