TESSA is a modern Mediterranean tavern on the upper west side that blends southern French and Italian cuisines. Their opening in April 2014 was the culmination of a years-long journey by first-time restaurateur, Larry Bellone, and long-time restaurateur, Will Tracy. The joint is named after Larry’s daughter. Will has been involved in the restaurant business for over 30 years.
Executive Chef Eric Cope has been at the helm since the beginning. Before his position here, Eric worked for the Rancho Bernardo Inn in his hometown of San Diego. The Pastry Chef is Yarisis Jacobo, and the Sous Chef is Ray Martinez.
The industrial and rustic interior design is absolutely stunning, and you can see the immaculate kitchen through the massive windows downstairs if you use the spotless-clean bathrooms.
The bar is really beautiful too, and the cocktail list is inventive. I tried three drinks (Kilt & Dagger, 349 and UWS Manhattan), and they were all delicious.
But let me get to the food, because that’s what you really care about the most, right? We started with three apps.
This was nice and fresh. It had a middle-eastern flavor profile, especially when eaten with the soft naan-like scallion pita bread with which it was served. The pomegranate, cucumber, pearl onion, black sesame and saffron aioli really worked well together.
This a la plancha style octopus was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. It was really nice! It’s served with marble potato salad, fried capers, black garlic puree and aged balsamic. This was my favorite of the apps.
These “drunken” Hollander mussels were beautiful. The broth boasts tequila, tomato, garlic, kafir lime leaf, dried guajillo and cilantro. Super aromatic and tasty.
Next up we tried a duo of appetizer-sized pasta dishes (half of what you’d get for a full order). I must say, the app sizes were generous!
This was really good, and was offered as a special for the night. Duck sausage and duck confit lent a great savory component to the dish, complementing the fresh greenery of peas and fried basil.
Lobster Rye Trumpet
This beautiful rye pasta dish was topped with a generous amount of lobster for an appetizer portion. This was the better pasta of the two, for me. It was tossed with chanterelle mushrooms, celery root, chorizo, buerre blanc and chives.
We shared two entrees.
Long Island Duck
First, and actually my favorite between the two, was the duck. The breast was rendered perfectly, leaving just a layer of crisp skin above the tender, expertly cooked meat. This was served with a spiced honey sauce, a few crispy duck confit ravioli, baby carrots, cipollini onions and tarragon. The sweet and savory contrast to this dish was so amazing. I’d go back for this in a heart beat.
Cote de Boeuf
This beauty is pre-sliced and 32oz on the bone. Take a closer look at the meat though.
A little closer…
There you go! It’s a 45 day dry-aged DeBragga rib eye that carries a great earthy and funky flavor. The crust on this thing was excellent, and perfectly seasoned. It comes with roasted garlic, crispy fried shallots and roasted bone marrow. 8/10.
This was a great steak, but I was really torn between ordering this or the other two beef options that were on the menu: a hanger steak frites and a 45-day dry aged strip steak. Next time.
We also tried the fries and shaved Brussels on the side. Both were great, but I only snapped the fries.
In the background, you can also see some grilled romaine lettuce which came with the steak (along with a nice reduction-style steak sauce, and the sun dried tomato chimichurri that usually accompanies the steak frites).
To finish off the meal, we tried two desserts.
I’m usually not a fan of ordering doughnuts at a restaurant. I always end up liking doughnuts from specialty shops better. But these ones were incredible. It was tough to choose a favorite between the two styles (vanilla cream vs glazed). Both were incredible, and came with a hazelnut anglaise dipping sauce.
Coconut Cheesecake Sundae
Yes, you read that right. It’s coconut sorbet with malted vanilla sauce, diced mango and macadamia crunch. Really inventive, refreshing and exotic.
Is that everything? I think it is. But I want more. I highly recommend this place. The quality of the food and attentiveness of service is top notch. You won’t be disappointed.
349 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10024