#14 Minetta Tavern
Shirred eggs and shaved black truffles $19
Saturday was a special day, as the chef had switched out the standard trumpet mushrooms for truffles. S. and I are big fans of black truffles, so we didn’t bother to ask why the substitution had occurred. We just licked our lips and eagerly awaited our order…
Shirred eggs is another way of saying baked eggs. These were prepared with cheese but came out a little bit too runny (S. suggested that they could have been cooked for a bit longer). We also lamented that the dish was only garnished with shaved black truffles. It would have been great if these had been fully incorporated.
Note: These are very similar to eggs en cocotte but cooked without water.
Black label burger $26
Apparently one of the most celebrated burgers in the city, I was eager to try this guy out. Prepared from a selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts, the patty was tender and smoky. There were sweet and smooth caramelized onions on top and I ordered a slice of cheddar cheese, as well. To tell the truth, I didn’t quite understand what the hype was about. Sure, the meat is good but the bun was kind of soggy and the onions were overloaded. Plus, those “pommes frites” were pretty plain. In fact, I found them salty and over-fried. Moreover, at $26, it’s pretty pricey (especially considering that you can get an excellent burger at The Spotted Pig for only $20).
Coconut cake $9
To round off our meal, we opted to share a small dessert. The coconut cake is supposedly a classic but we weren’t super impressed. The sponge was dense and dry, interspersed with sweet and creamy layers of coconut icing. The outside was covered in flakes of dried coconut. Ok.
Frankly, I have NO idea how Minetta Tavern managed to soar through the list of New York’s best restaurants, bypassing places like The Modern, Aldea and other excellent establishments on its way to the top. Sure, I get it. The décor is fun and there’s a cool, speakeasy-esque vibe. But, I mean, really? Neither S. nor I could figure out what made this place so special. On other occasions, when we’ve tried to go for dinner, the staff have been brusque, making it even more difficult to find a table. On some nights, there’s even a bouncer outside, which feels totally unnecessary. I don’t imagine any of those punters are clamoring to get in on account of the food.
For those who haven’t seen it, Minetta is a small, somewhat cramped space with low ceilings, checkerboard floors, an old wooden bars and red leather banquettes. You enter through a paneled door, making your way past thick red velvet curtains to find the hostess. The aesthetic evokes the speakeasies of old and there are even original framed prints on the wall.
Overall, I’d laud restaurant impresario Keith McNally (owner of Balthazar) for creating a fun, clubby establishment that offers a fun dining experience. However, speakeasy stylings and a $26 burger do not an excellent restaurant make.
113 MacDougal St.