November 25, 2008 | Insatiable Critic

Call It Bistro. Call It Café. Call It Almond. 


Mussels, scallops and octopus on ice to share from Almond’s raw bar.  Photo: Steven Richter

       Almond, with its clamorous warmth, white paint splashed on wood-planked walls and an apricot glow at the bar, its eclectic American menu and reasonable prices, is a haven for these nervous times. Feeling wrung out and suddenly poor? Share a big toss of lemony escarole with mint, pecorino and pistachios or a seafood tasting of raw scallops sliced thin atop sharply citric fennel, marinated octopus slivers and curried mussels on ice – actually enough for three or four.

 
Walk past the raw bar and the drinking bar with its apricot glow.  Photo: Steven Richter

        Starters like first-rate duck confit with lentils tangy from a splash of benyuls vinegar, or  sweetly caramelized red-wine braised short ribs with layered potatoes and horseradish crème fraiche, both just $12, would be dinner for me and many waistline-fixated eaters I know. Four or five mac‘n’cheese fans will freak out on over-the-top macaroni “le grand” ($18) with proscuitto, chopped truffles and a voluptuous swamp of cheese.  It’s so unabashedly rich you’ll be grateful you ordered it for the table. 

 
Twice cooked veal reminds me of grandma’s cooking.  Photo: Steven Richter

      And then? An excellent burger or croque madame perhaps (both $15) or a full-fledged entrée from $18 for le grand aioli to $29 for a New York strip.  Crusty twice-cooked veal breast with capers and cauliflower reminds me of
 
 The “deluxe” burger. Photo: Steven Richter
grandma’s cooking. I’m less pleased with whatever went into the marinade of the hanger steak served in a jumble of slices, though I can’t get enough of the sensational fries piled alongside, spilling on top. A bigger plate would help, for starters. Shrimp sausage, rapini and botarga overwhelm the house made cavatelli (a dish I loved at Almoncello in East Hamtpon). The Road Food Warrior agrees it’s hardly Italian but he likes it. 

      After a month’s shakedown, the kitchen is stronger – though the staff seems taxed handling tonight’s full house. Probably I’m not allowed to complain that the busboy doesn’t speak English. It’s not politically correct. (Especially since what I celebrate about New York is you can get off the boat not speaking a word of English and be a busboy two days later.)

 

 
Host Eric Lemonides has a winning quality of intimacy. Photo: Steven Richter

       The face of Almond in Bridgehampton, co-owner Eric Lemonides, darts about the room dispensing boyish charm, his signature, while partner Jason Weiner supervises the kitchen. That helps. When he squats down next to your chair you feel he is focused only on you. Outside that circle of intimacy it’s noisy – young women unleashed on Saturday nights tend to screech as they get tipsy – but it’s not unbearable.  And it looks like Rocco DiSpirito’s ghost shot full of holes in that more real than reality show at this address has already been exorcised.

12 East 22 Street near Broadway. 212 228 7557

 

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