When the sommelier at Public brought the bottle of The Shiner Concern to our table, he asked if we knew what it was about. He went on to say that the winemakers made 55 cases of this wine and distributed it to restaurants with a minimal description of its flavor because they believed that “the only relationship you should have with the wine is your experience with it.” I appreciated this quip and wished that other taste experiences weren’t so preceded by their reputation. That shit was good. But they don’t sell The Shiner Concern retail 🙁
We were at Public, a NoLiTa restaurant that looked like a garage from the outside but with a dark, hip, and oil-burner lit atmosphere inside. The single Michelin star drew our group in and we made reservations for a friend’s birthday. We tried the Chef’s Tasting Menu, which consisted of the dishes below.
The kangaroo appetizer was ordered on the side because we had read some good reviews about it. Kangaroo tasted like beef sirloin and it was tender atop a delicious falafel. We ordered two to split among us and were pleased with our encounter with kanga meat.
At that point the cabernet sauvignon arrived to entertain our palates. We are not wine enthusiasts other than the fact that we are enthusiastic about wine. In not so many words we tasted the many dimensions of The Shiner Concern as its creator intended, especially its time in oak that gave it a very interesting smell when we gave it a good whiff. The table unanimously sighed at how good this wine was.
The mushroom ceviche is sadly what often happens when one gives a non-Asian chef access to miso, hoisin, and ponzu. The overly dessert-level sweetness of the miso killed any flavors of the mushrooms or the ponzu. We scraped the miso off the mushrooms and soaked it in ponzu to take the sweetness out. An overkill with the sauce here, because I’m sure the mushrooms and other ingredients had their own distinct appeal.
The scallops seemed to be lathered with the same hoisin-like sweet sauce which I promptly scraped off the nicely cooked scallop. The fried oyster was okay, but was served without the dipping sauce for this trio sampler dish. The table had mixed reviews of the white anchovies – some loved, and some hated – but the quinoa croquettes were too tough and chewy for the table to appreciate the use of this prized grain.
The Mad Hatter was as smooth as wines get – A+ for this joint’s wine menu. Loved them both. Connoisseurs, please don’t slap me if I liken the smoothness of this wine to Opus One!
This was probably the most pleasing dish I had that evening. The cured wild board reminded me of Jamon Serrano from Barcelona, and the caperberries reminded me of the jar of brined caperberries we bought from an old man at the plaza in Oia, Santorini. the crostini had to be consumed carefully as they were hard enough to chip a tooth!
For the main course, the venison loin came out medium rare and tender, exposing its true gamey flavors. I think the pesto on top (it was not salsa verde as far as I know) would have done better if it had a hint of sweetness or mint to it to cut the rich savory flavors of the meat. The Cabrales dumplings, likened by our server to a big gnocchi, was very filling after a few bites. As far as the oyster mushrooms, I hardly noticed it. I think it was drowned by the flavors of the ingredients on top.
We were looking forward to the dessert portion of the meal which our server said was the specialty of the house. The toffee pudding itself seemed rich in flavor which I could have appreciated more if the whole thing was not swimming in hot caramel sauce. The ice cream was good, but the caramel just killed it. I don’t know if this was the objective, but nobody at the table was able to eat more than a bite.
Other than that, the place was cute looking like a garage from the outside.
Nice yellow flame and incandescent lighting inside.
And an atmosphere like it could turn noisy at any moment. Some reviews I’ve read say that they often play club music at dinnertime. Fortunately that night wasn’t one of those days.
Oh, they also have these cute individual customized soaps in the bathroom so I just had to take a photo of them.
Public Restaurant is one of those places with good intentions or maybe is better on some days than others. It definitely has the feel of a hip place and has edible food. As far as the Michelin Star – I don’t know what happened there. But I really wish my only relationship with this place was not the anticipation of it, but just my experience. I’ll come back for more of The Shiner Concern 🙂
210 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012