I loved Public!
I just wanted to post because although I have seen good reviews for Public here, it had been largely off my radar. I honestly only found it because a friend and I were joking around about eating kangaroo and I was googling kangaroo to be funny and I stumbled on their website and demanded someone go there with me to settle my curiosity. It turned out to be such a great meal I wanted to post here!
I started with a cocktail recommended by the waitress - a not at all overly sweet watermelon herb martini which was lovely, and then my friend and I agreed to share the whole meal because there were so many things we wanted to try. We did order the kangaroo (how could we not) which came in fairly thin, seared slices, over a felafel ball and with some tiny chopped pickles. It had the flavor of a game meat, with a slight smokiness to it, but the texture was softer than beef. Very unusual and tasty. The pickles were fabulous. The felafel was fine (could have been crunchier). Our other app was a kobe tongue, which came as two medallions, grilled I think, over a sauce that had crunchy chickpeas in it and carmelized onions. The tongue was the softest, most melting tongue I've experienced. For entrees we shared a lovely, light cod encrusted in polenta over a fresh corn and basil risotto which was also quite yummy and I think had huitlacoche in it, and a venison over "dumplings" which were more like pancakes but had a great chewy texture and a toastiness to them. Everything was delish - including a second cocktail I somehow ordered with a lemon or cucumber flavor to it, and we did something I've never done before: on the way out, we made a reservation to go back, next time for the Sunday dinner where they surprise you. I've certainly eaten at places I knew I wanted to return to immediately, but this is the first time that me and a dining companion both felt it so strongly for the same meal - but of course also we were both curious about how much more adventurous their Sunday menus could be!
210 Elizabeth Street, New York, NY 10012
Wow. Oh my. Geesh. Need I say more? Yes, I think I will as people really need to understand that this is a MUST try.
First, I was very skeptical about going to Public for a recent special celebration--only for the reason that I had never been there before and have been so disappointed in the past with restaurants that offer eclectic cuisines that were 'supposed' to be good.
Add that to my somewhat boring routine of always going to french restaurants for special occasions, or restaurants I have been to before because at least then I know what I am going to get, and even MORE disconcerting, I was trying to entertain a vegan for his special occasion and Public's menu is largely a carnivorous and seafood oasis.
From the second I made reservations, I was clearly assuaged. Making reservations is always hard enough, but try explaining that you want a special tasting menu with wine pairing, and oh, and by the way, a special tasting menu 'for someone who is a vegan' is perhaps the most painful experience in the world.
I was more than pleasantly surprised that after the host had a brief Q&A with the chef, the answer was 'No problem'. I was even MORE ecstatic when I found out that they would be happy to do two separate tasting menus for the table---one for my vegan friend, and one for me---the self proclaimed meat eater that I am. Many restaurants (if not all), stand by the hard and fast rule that the entire table needs to eat meat OR vegetarian, or in this case vegan. Although I would have happily complied with whatever they gave me, I didn't have to, and that alone made me all happy inside.
Now, for the food, service and ambiance.
If one word could describe the food, it would be WOW. From our first course to our fifth, the food kept us both guessing. The eclectic combinations of flavors, textures, and lovely plate presentations of the food made each bite more and more exciting. Pair that with the lovely wines that were so carefully chosen to go with the courses, I felt like I had gotten a one way ticket to a place I have never been before. I'm actually still thinking about a couple of the courses, trying to recreate them in my mind. Especially the chilled pear and almond gazpacho and the fried hama hama oysters. And most adoringly, the venison loin. Wow. Need I really say more?
As far as service, our waiter was perhaps one of the best waiters I have had in a decade in NYC. Not pretentious, very astute, and very explanatory in his explanations of the tastings and the wines paired with them. He was obviously busy in the high energy packed and tightly filled restaurant, but he took special note to making sure that we fully understood what we were eating and drinking. Remarkable.
As for ambiance, the space was large and open, trendy but very inviting. Our first impression was that it was perhaps a little too loud for us as we wanted to talk. The decibels quickly waved however, and the noise around us was dissipated by the sheer brilliance of the food. We honestly would have rather lived in harmony with our dishes than talk to each other by the third course...that's how good the food was, or the wine with the food, I can't be sure.
All in all, I couldn't say enough positive things about this place or our experience, and will undoubtedly go back as many times as I can. My vegan guest even told me that out of all of his experiences around the world, and throughout all of his veganistic lifestyle, he had never eaten such good food...and that for once at a restaurant he didn't feel like a second class citizen for NOT eating meat or dairy products.
I strongly recommend, and suggest that if someone is on the fence about trying it, just do it. You won't regret it!!!
Public is great, and IMHO batting above their price point (not that they should raise prices, mind you...)
I think some of the lack of notice here is on account of it's a bit "sceney" - not because of the chef, mind you, but the setting, AvroKO design, ambience, and trendy NoLita location. Not that there's anything wrong with any of that - hey, you gotta make a living. Good for them if the place is packed. But I think some people who haven't been there tend to think of it as JUST a scenester place, and don't even realize the food is top-notch, with one of the more adventurous menus in the city.
I think another issue is that restaurants grow and progress, and a number of people who may have eaten there back in '04-'05 might have left unimpressed, and never felt an urge to return, feeling it was scene-over-substance.
It's a better restaurant now than it was then, I think - I wasn't there in '04, I think I tried them first in '08 or so. I had a decent meal, but wasn't wow-wow-wowed. But I (luckily) wound up there maybe a year or so later and had a great meal. And since then, every meal has been great. I don't know if I caught them on an off night my first time, or if Farmerie's just gotten better. It's one of those restaurants that I think could deserve another look from The Times, rather than Sifton wasting everyone's time by revisiting critic-proof tourist-trap warhorses like The Palm.