November 10, 2019 | BITE: My Journal
Blue Chip Asset
Buffalo mozzarella and toast with an heirloom cherry tomato, black olive and red pesto salad.
Restaurants come and go on the Upper West Side. Some modest efforts take root, agreeable for family dine-outs. Asset, ambitious sibling to Tessa one block north, is different. It favors grownups in its soaring industrial space, with a large bar downstairs and a more intimate stand upstairs.
A narrow entrance leads to the bar and a vast space on two floors including our little hideaway.
It’s no surprise to find Asset’s partners eating dinner about seven as we arrive for ours.
Asset would be an asset in any neighborhood. A good-looking crowd. Professional crew. Owners making sure all is well. I like the seclusion of the four tables in the downstairs back room with its low light and striking black steel anatomy. Just as well, since, without asking, I am seated there all three times I come for dinner.
Grilled octopus is served on beans with charred gondal olives and piquillo peppers in a citrus emulsion.
Pastas burst with flavor, like this lemony cavatelli with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe and Calabrian chili.
What is most welcoming for sure is the very good food. The rich, cake-like focaccia. The savory filet mignon carpaccio with pickled shallots, crisp capers and shaved Parmesan. The grilled octopus on rice and beans with charred gordal olives and piquillo peppers in a citrus dressing. The complex flavors of cavatelli with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, Calabrian chili and preserved lemon.
One evening Asset offered fresh truffles with linguine and we couldn’t resist.
We ordered a duo of twin burger plates with sharp cheddar and caramelized onion: one rare, one medium rare.
Like executive chef John Schafer’s mix of offerings at Tessa, Asset offers a contemporary American collection of this and that: Lamb and manchego empanadas, roasted bone marrow with blackberry agrodolce and crostini, a huddle of pastas, and mains: the more or less usual tuna, snapper, free-range chicken, filet mignon and burger you see everywhere, here properly cooked, simply grilled or somehow adorned.
Asset may be a place for grownups, but adults like us never outgrow their love for pigs in a blanket.
That first evening our quartet craved the wagyu pigs in a blanket, piled like a fence with a homemade dipping ketchup alongside. I ask to have them, please, timed with cocktails…but no, they show up before drinks. It is our server’s first day too, she confides. She will check with someone to get us a better description of the duck.
We share a order of ancient grains: quinoa, faro with mango, cherry tomatoes and walnuts in apple vinaigrette.
We share an appetizer of ancient grains – quinoa, faro, mango, cherry tomato, chopped walnuts and avocado in an apple vinaigrette, requesting serving pieces as we usually do. Then we help ourselves from the middle of the bare table.
Perhaps the moulard duck with plum would have been more tender if I hadn’t asked for it so rare.
Small side plates are perfect for passing along cuts of steak, fries, not-quite-rare-enough salmon with corn pudding, and the possibly too rare (and therefore too tough) duck with faro and garden vegetables.
The broccoli rabe my friend chose with his “simply grilled” tuna was cold, so he left it untouched.
The $10 macaroni I chose for my “main” that evening came loose in a bowl not baked as I expected.
I like that most of the entrees come with vegetables. Alas, on another evening when we’re just two, the broccoli rabe my friend picks as the “side of his choice” with “simply grilled” tuna is cold and goes uneaten. I order the $10 side of macaroni as my main course. Pasta spirals comes loose in a soup bowl, tossed in butter and cheese, not baked as I expect. More than I can finish after the shared prologue.
The house sent complimentary desserts like this baked Alaska.
This rustic apple pie, also a gift of the house, is one of my favorite desserts at Asset.
I should confess that I’m getting special attention because I’m recognized by Will Tracy and Larry Bellone, the partners here. That includes complimentary desserts all three evenings. I’m not as wild about the cheesecake or the key lime sundae as I am about the rustic apple pie.
Yarisis Jacobo’s regal 15-layer chocolate cake, served with a bottle of sweet booze, is my favorite dessert.
My favorite is pastry hand Yarisis Jacobo’s regal 15-layer chocolate cake, so much like the Strip House beauty we used to order for birthday parties. Asset serves it with Kahlua, Bailey’s and Amaretto milk blended in a small bottle alongside. The cake is so rich that even four sweet-lovers can’t finish it.
Ice cream and berries are appealing in the key lime sundae.
The berry sorbet comes in a fanciful dessert: another gift of the house.
In a move to add a little nightlife feel, Asset has a disc jockey tucked up front somewhere. My friends don’t like live music at dinner, but it’s far enough away and no one complains. I happen to be a little hard of hearing myself. That can be an asset, too.
329 Columbus between West 75th and 76th Streets 212 517 1987. Happy hour daily 4 to 6 pm. Dinner daily 5 pm to 11 pm. Late-night dining Thursday through Saturday 11 pm to 1 am. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 11 am to 3 pm.
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