79 MacDougal Street off Houston
about $45 each for two, with tip
I’ve been wanting to go to Smith’s since it opened, but every time I would remember to walk by, they always give me an estimated hour-long wait. One Monday night, I was able to get a table for two on short notice. The place was full, but when I asked our waitress if we can chill with our drinks first before ordering anything, she told us we can stay as long as we want because it wasn’t going to be a busy night. I was so glad to hear that, too, because I was losing faith with restaurant servers due to most recent experiences. Our waitress continued to be attentive and pleasant the entire night.
When we finally started to feel hungry, we ordered several small plates to share. I loved the squid, charred with lemon, olives and pancetta bits, and I thought it was a good match with the heavier, more substantial artichoke pasta with black truffles. A steamed egg with Gorgonzola and polenta was a sophisticated dish even though I feel like foams have come and gone. The Portuguese sardines were butterflied and were quite tasty with tomato confit, but oh, is that more foam? I loved how crunchy the fish was but the small bones were cumbersome in my mouth. One even pricked my gums and I had to excuse myself and go to the bathroom to pull it out.
Either we were getting more drunk as we sampled dish after dish, or that our choice of sparkling wine really matched everything we ordered. Even the roasted beets became more interesting–I love beets, don’t get me wrong–but with creamy horseradish and a nutty flavor, it was a nice complement to the corzetti pasta and earthy mushrooms.
I loved Smith’s for its location and coziness more than the food itself, but that strip off Houston is so unexciting otherwise I’d definitely come back to make sure it gets a share of my business.
Foam and Alinea in Chicago
Another small space, but on the other side of the city