Spoon & Stable
211 N. First Street
Phone now. Then you’ll at least have a head start on those who hesitate till they’ve read the story. Even so, plan on a lo-o-o-ong wait to score a prime-time table. Instead, we accepted (read: jumped at) the first opening available—8:30 p.m. on a wintry Wednesday night.
Worth the fuss? That’s what I’m here to tell you (Reminder: Phone now). The food is lovely, recognizable fare—not the “you’ll never believe this” stuff to Tweet. Rather than fancy foams and precarious plating, the kitchen favors Grandma Dorothy’s pot roast, the best dish on the menu. And service is just as affable as I’ll bet it was in Dorothy’s home; you almost expect your waiter to come around with seconds. Add in a comfortable, modern setting carved out of a former stable in the Warehouse District, and you can understand why the wait list is so long at Spoon and Stable. The new restaurant is the newest child of chef/owner Gavin Kaysen (he has two preschoolers at home), who opted to return to his hometown after reaping awards in NYC.
Starters ($8 up) sound simple: dill-cured salmon, bison tartare, squash soup—but make that “simple” as in a Picasso sketch: pure in composition, born of careful technique and long training, rather than resorting to bells and whistles. This evening, we began with a composition of roasted beets layered with chewy grains of quinoa, creamy goats’ milk cottage cheese, bright nasturtium leaves, and the sweet-sharp zing of pomegranate to ignite the progression of textures and tastes.
Next, we split half-orders ($12-13) of pasta. The winner: spaghetti nero, whose strands of squid ink noodles twined around sweet and bouncy bits of prawns and mussels, abetted by the spicy wake-up of a fra diavolo sauce. However, the wild mushroom risotto met with less enthusiasm—a bit on the gummy side—and the toasted wheat cavatelli tubes, mined with bits of sweetbreads, hazelnuts and sage in a muted romanesco sauce, promised more than it delivered. A side of grilled broccolini spiked with lemon and chili helped out, and proved a tasty side to our entrees ($25 up).
My bacon-wrapped monkfish arrived perfectly timed, and the combo seems as meant-to-be as, say, peanut butter and jelly. Golden nuggets of squash, creamy barley and a light mushroom-shallot sauce proved the perfect, low-key accompaniments. A taste of a friend’s duck breast convinced me to claim one for myself next visit: ruddy yet tender, full-flavored chunks served with sprouted buckwheat and radish, paired (classically, and perfectly) with sweet blood orange, along with a sausage of foie gras (talk about gilding the lily).
And the winner: that pot roast. Forget about a knife, it’s that tender, served with ultra-fine-textured mashed potatoes and rosemary broth (don’t call it “gravy”), along with parsley root and hedgehog mushrooms—welcome updates that may not have made their way to Dorothy’s pantry. Yum!
Desserts ($10), by pastry diva Diane Yang, are more complex—and, well, why not? Tonight we subdivided a divine slice of custard enriched with butternut squash: perfect, velvet-smooth texture and sweetened just a bit by the plate’s accomplices: brown-sugar marshmallows, juicy quince and molasses. But wait! With your bill comes a gift from the pastry kitchen—a couple of tiny candies to savor.
P.S. Can’t wait? No reservations needed for a seat at the bar. Order from the dinner menu or the bar list, which spotlights treats like duck meatloaf sliders and hand-cut fries.