The Charlie Bird restaurant team recently opened this joint, and since opening it has gotten a lot of hype and attention from the food fanatic community. Namely, for the pizza and the pasta.
My wife and I came here with a crew of other food instagrammers so that we could try a lot of stuff and snap a bunch of pretty pictures.
The menu isn’t too extensive, which I liked. It listed a bunch of eye catching stuff that I wanted to try. I was also happy to see escarole make an appearance here in the greens section (though I didn’t get to try it out).
We tried three starters: pane carasau, cuttlefish and sugar snap peas. All were good, but slightly small in terms of portion size for the price point. While this is a “no tipping” restaurant and one should expect higher pricing, I felt that they went a bit too far. Based on my accounting of things, I’d say they are charging about 40-50% more per item. If you figure a 20% tip into the math, then you’re still overpaying by 20-30%, depending on the particular item in question. So while the idea of a no tipping restaurant may seem great, the real loser is the customer, who can no longer adjust their tip downward for low food quality or poor service. Our waiter was kind of a dick, and I wasn’t super impressed with the food either. As such, I felt like I over-paid for several aspects of the meal.
The pane carasau is essentially what you might get for free in a bread basket at a high end Italian joint. It was really just thin, crispy bread chips with a small dollop of delicious, warm honey and black pepper ricotta. $9.
The cuttlefish was steep at $18 for this plate:
The pickled peppers on top were a nice hit of heat, and it was cooked nicely in terms of texture, with only a slight bit of it being, perhaps, a bit overcooked and chewy. It tasted clean, though, and the charcoal grilling method added a nice earthy ash flavor to it.
The snap pea dish with watercress and cream was probably the best of the three, but, again, extremely overpriced at $17.
The peas carried a nice sweetness, but I was hoping for more cream.
Now for the pizza (category 1: full pies only, no slices available). We tried two pies: little neck clam and the special pizza of the day, which was a morel mushroom and cheese pie. The clam pie had good flavor, but it felt a little sparse on the actual clams and toppings. That means the diner feels ripped off when paying $24 for six small slices. That’s a hell of a profit margin when you think about how cheap it is to make this shit!
The morel pizza could have used more toppings a bit closer to the edge of the crust. That wasted real estate also translates to the feeling of being ripped off when the bill comes. This was, however, the better of the two pies, in my opinion. The morels had a meaty quality to them, and a good amount of earthiness.
On the pasta angle, we went with the baby goat pappardelle. This was a delicious dish. The meat was very tender, and the pasta was well dressed with sauce. The texture of the pasta was just right. While the portion size felt a little bit small for $23, I didn’t mind as much because it was top notch quality.
For the meats, we tried two dishes: pork shank for two, and dry aged rib eye for two. Let’s start with the pork.
This was delicious. While a bit small for two, the price of $48 wasn’t too bad. Well, I mean, when you compare it to the outstanding crackling pork shank with firecracker apple sauce at Maloney & Porcelli, which only costs $36 and can feed two people with extra to bring home, then, yeah, it’s way overpriced here. But given all else on the menu, I felt this was probably the best bargain. The flavors were outstanding and it had hints of sausage spice from the fennel and rosemary. This is a must-order if you decide to come here.
You can pass on the rib eye, however. It definitely delivered on the dry-aged flavor, but it was very small for two people to share at $125. If I had to guess, I’d say this was about 22oz on the bone. Maybe 24oz. For that size steak at a steakhouse, you pay between $50 and $60. So here, I would have expected to pay about $75 to account for the tip being included. At $125, we are looking at a massive fucking mark-up.
Contrast this with the best rib eye in Manhattan over at Osteria Morini, just around the corner, which offers a steak that’s more than twice the size of this thing at 52oz, with 120 days of dry-aging flavor, and accompanied by two generously-sized sides for just $145. Uhh… no brainer. Anyway, this steak had a bit of chew to it. Not as tender as we had hoped and expected from dry-aging.
It was cooked perfectly to medium rare, and it had a great crust on the outside. The crispy meat surrounding the bone was excellent as well. However there was no rib cap to speak of. Perhaps it was butchered off for some other use. 7/10.
The steak came with this nice roasted onion:
And something came with this side of citrus-dressed arugula:
But the highlight of the night, aside from the pork shank, was seeing Michael J. Fox and Dennis Leary in the dining room, eating together with their wives.
To sum up: skip this place unless you are focused on the pork shank. If that’s not your thing, then stick with the pizza and pasta, but I, personally, would still go elsewhere for those even though both were pretty tasty.
187 Mulberry St
New York, NY 10012