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Fedora Reborn (West Village)

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Accompanying food porn, here: http://www.girleatscity.com/2011/03/f...

Fedora, reborn in early 2011 under the same name, but different ownership, might be the best thing to happen to the West Village from a culinary standpoint, since Recette (whose food Fedora's resembles, a bit). For 52 years, this West 4th St. institution served up stiff drinks and a healthy dose of character, if not always great food. We only knew it in its previous incarnation during its final year and a half of existence, but we knew it well enough to realize that when its well-loved, 80-some-odd year old original owner closed up shop in mid-2010, many neighborhood residents mourned the passing of an era. The restaurant, the owner, and the neighborhood had been through a lot, together.

But for every end, there is a beginning and the food at the newly reopened Fedora, Gabriel Stulman's third West Village restaurant (after Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey's Grocery), is absolutely wonderful. It's the best of his three ventures, actually. On a recent evening, fat little Kusshi oysters were briny, fresh, sweet, clear and cucumbery. They didn't need the mignonette that accompanied -- just a tiny spritz of lemon -- though the mignonette was delicious. There were also Blue Point oysters on offer, which I didn't try.

My dining companion's starter of crispy pig head with greens and sauce gribiche was a bit overdressed, but the crispy pig head, richly flavored shredded pork formed into croquettes, was very good: substantially meaty and tender on the inside, with a thin, light coating of deep fried breadcrumbs, well drained and not at all greasy. Greens were slightly wilted when brought to the table, which intensified their flavors. The dish would've been perfect had it only included about half the amount of sauce gribiche.

My main dish of sweetbreads and octopus with roasted lettuce and red butter (pictured at the top of this post) was balanced and so well conceived as to seem obvious: Why aren't octopus with sweetbreads dishes more common? They are a lovely match. In this dish, tender, chewy, mildly-flavored octopus played well with the slightly metallic tang of creamy sweetbreads. The bitter roasted lettuce honed your tastebuds, enhancing the delicacy of other flavors in the dish. All of this came plated on a bed of pearl barley with striking red (beet?) tinged butter on the side and a wee bit of creamy, white something that I think was bechamel sauce.

My dining companion's crisped duck leg with barbecue sauce, dates and herb salad was very well executed. A substantial cut of tender, flavorful, moist thigh meat came with crisped, almost lacquered skin. Bits of roasted cauliflower florets in the dish added pleasant texture and faint sweetness, though their mild flavors were largely overwhelmed by the other components. I didn't taste the dates on their own, but they were a perfectly logical match for duck and tasted wonderful when eaten together.

As good as the food was, cocktails could've commanded the stage in their own right. Between the two of us, we tried three cocktails: a Black Squirrel Old Fashioned with "Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Citrus, Maple Wash and House Pecan Bitters Inspired by the Voyageur Hotel’s Famous Bar"; a lovely green-tinged Songbird (with IIRC Gruet brut, elderflower liquor, violet bitters and a few other things); and the Mr. Graves Pendelton made, according to the menu, with "Elijah Craig Bourbon, Clove BBQ syrup, the spirit of the South and our pal Alex’s grandpappy". The old fashioned and Mr. Graves Pendelton were brawny, serious drinks, though the Graves Pendelton was a bit sweet for my tastes. The Songbird was a lovely, light springtime drink, sweet, but not overly so. It was well named. These cocktails rival the best in town and give the likes of Little Branch and Pegu a run for the money.

I'm thrilled to have this restaurant just around the corner. Part of me wants to keep it very hush hush so I have it all to myself.

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Little Branch
22 Seventh Ave South, New York, NY 10014

Fedora
239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

Joseph Leonard
170 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

Recette
328 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10014

Jeffrey's Grocery
172 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

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  1. We had a very good meal there recently, and it's going to be hard to decide which of the Joseph Leonard-Fedora-Jeffrey's Grocery trifecta I like the most.

    Started off with some oysters. Fresh, briny, and well shucked (no pieces of shell, which drives me up a wall). Really enjoyed the egg in a hole with tripe ragoût and cheddar. Like a offal-cheesy breakfast dish. Good to share as it is a little heav and buttery. The fried chicken was awesome. Loved the rice soaking in the chicken juices and use of Sriracha and refreshing cucumber. The menu description sounded so plain but the dish itself was much more complex. Good breading, well cooked chicken meat, and I thought it was hilarious to have the real claw hanging off the leg. Finished with the ice cream sandwich: chocolate cookies, Van Leeuwen’s vanilla ice cream. Frozen to a good consistency (unlike Cool Haus, which spills everywhere when you bit into it). Dipped in chocolate and rolled in peanuts! Fantastic.

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    Fedora
    239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

    6 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      wow...i usually agree with your decisions...its a shame i disagree on fedora.

      i found my rock shrimp salad to be slimey, my fried pig head to be gristle and fat...and just had an all around horrible meal.

      ive actually come to terms with the stulman mini empire and realize that i am only interested in breakfast/brunch at jeffreys...where i believe they serve the best food in the most comfortable setting.

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      Fedora
      239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

      1. re: sam1

        A friend lives nearby and has been hyping it up to me recently. Interesting that we ordered completely differently as well -- it's entirely possible that it's inconsistent. We haven't been enough times to judge. I agree with you that breakfast/brunch at Jeffrey's is great, though.

      2. re: kathryn

        >>hilarious to have the real claw hanging off the leg.

        My husband had a great time reanimating his over dinner. If I hadn't had chicken served like this in the PROC last year, I probably would've (hypocritically for a meat eater!) been more squeamish.

        Speaking of the Stulman trifecta, I need to get back to Jeffrey's Grocery to give it another try, since I trust your food judgment a great deal and you've written positive things. Interestingly enough, esp. in light of sam1's comment, based on my one meal (lunch) there, it's the Stulman I like least. (I remember something about less than fresh scallop crudo, but to be fair, I didn't try a lot of dishes.) Luck of the draw, probably. Any dishes at Jeffrey's you'd recommend in particular?

        1. re: michelleats

          At brunch I like their french toast. Also their cold brewed iced coffee. They brew it for 24 hours! If they have a special sandwich of the day (especially grilled cheese with a fancy meat), get that. We actually end up ordering from the specials board quite a bit at dinner. We often get a sampling of whatever oysters are fresh that day, too. They also have a beer take on a Bloody Mary with Sriracha sauce that is served with an oyster on the half shell on top.

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          Fedora
          239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

          1. re: kathryn

            Crap. You just named a lot of foods I can't have at the moment. :) I'll still go and play it by ear, though. Would you agree that brunch is what they do best?

            1. re: michelleats

              I suppose--I think for dinner I might prefer a more extensive menu of cooked dishes, like at Joseph Leonard. But we did spend quite a bit time at Jeffrey's after the JL fire. Maybe I have a soft spot for them. The service is insanely nice. Almost uncanny.

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              Joseph Leonard
              170 Waverly Pl, New York, NY 10014

      3. Went to Fedora last night. Fun buzzy atmosphere, although it did get really loud even by 7.30. Drink: Three cocktails were sampled and nobody liked any of theirs very much, which surprised us given the raves they get.
        Food: a special of "duck sausage made from all parts of the duck" with cranberry compote was "the thing I'd want to eat if I were about to die", according to one taster. The flap steak, cremini mushrooms, and brussels sprouts all got raves. Miso salmon heads were also a hit. Scallops with bone marrow were disappointingly ordinary and the marrow was all fat. The egg in a hole with tripe ragu was also not quite as good as I'd hoped. The banana pudding was baby-food mush. Overall I wouldn't race back, although if you pick well you could be very happy.

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        Fedora
        239 W 4th St, New York, NY 10014

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowbie

          Bone marrow is always all fat, isn't it?

          Thanks for the review. I need to hit up this place, again, soon.

          I wonder if you just don't like Fedora's style of cocktails. Most of the ones I've tried are on the sweet side and some people just prefer much drier drinks. (For the latter, you might like Whitehall's selection.)

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          Whitehall
          19 Greenwich Ave, New York, NY 10014

        2. Amazing pork chop here. Perfect crust, still pink on the inside. Fatty. Meaty. Served with kimchee puree, arugula, and roasted turnips. Kimchee puree! Wow.