If you build it …
And there they were: the suits from its home in East Town’s Wells Fargo Tower, neighborhood condo dwellers and voyeurs of the nearby stadium.
The bar — a beaut by any standard, and top of the list among those with Irish DNA, as owner Dermot Cowley of O’Donovan’s Irish Pub, Jake O’Connor’s, etc. can claim — was packed as if Prohibition were to be reinstated any moment.
The whole room, bordered by a pretty balcony, pulsed with energy. Its kitchen could send out Kraft dinners and still keep its license for printing money.
Fortunately, the fare is more ambitious. All the hot buttons have been pushed, from ceviche and sliders to beet salad: the comfort foods of the 2000s.
But are they well crafted? To be honest, there’s room for improvement. But points for a crew who knows that and offers a 15-percent discount while a crew who previously delivered simpler pub fare irons out the kinks.
From the apps ($10–$18), we splurged on the foie gras mousse. While bearing that trademark liver taste (which I adore), the dollops were near-flimsy in texture, surrounded by an overdose of craisins, some glazed cashews, sere bits of bacon and, as the menu promised, “sweetened white Pullman.” What, you may ask? (We did, because the only Pullman I could think of was that basic, uninteresting sandwich loaf. Well, that’s what it was: just bits of diner toast.)
Glancing through the salad list ($9–$16), along with the mandatory beet-and-chèvre were a straight-up Caesar, a bacon- blue, an ahi tuna and our choice, ideal for autumn, the imagina- tive-sounding meld of butternut squash and wild rice. A bed of mesclun came scattered with tasty squares of the squash, more craisins (they’re everywhere), a few candied pecans and lots of dried-out, hard and unappealing kernels of wild rice.
Entrées range from salmon ($24) to ribeye ($39). We settled first on the shrimp risotto ($25), far and away the hit of the evening: sweet corn, green peas and cherry tomatoes shining among the New Orleans-style, almost sticky rice. Loved it. But no sign of the promised truffle essence, which, if present, the whole room would detect at first sniff.
Next, the kitchen’s signature dish, the crackling pork shank ($35 and meant for two, although this notorious glutton would have no trouble polishing it off solo): tasty, slow braised until pull-apart-tender meat joined by root vegetables, Granny Smiths and bland, short-order-style mashed potatoes in a mild cider demi-glace. But no cracklings. And that’s the sex appeal the shank has to offer. We asked the manager, who explained, “No-no-no: Just seasoned like cracklings.” Nope.
Or order the sea bass, a lamb shank with the same root veggies, a Cajun pork chop, plus loads of burgers and sandwiches (those, $15 range).
Dessert? The usual suspects, plus our choice — because it sounded different — a tahini semifreddo. It’s presented in scoops rather than the customary slice (and that’s fine), but — tahini? It’s OK — but why?
There’s a sunny will to please here, from servers to manager (who also is the sole athlete allowed to sprint up the spiral staircase of the formidable wine wall), so I’m betting on a long life for the place.
530 S. 4th St.
545-5863 / mckinneyroe.com