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Feast (NYC): Prune, An Expatriate’s Dream

May 27, 2011

Walking into Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune, you get the feeling that Jake Barnes might wander in and ask for a drink. The antique – almost too old – looking mirrors over the bar, the rickety chairs and tables, and the yellow-tinged lighting call forth a Hemingway era, circa The Sun Also Rises. This is a welcome change from many new restaurants, whose ultra modern decor choices can be ultra boring – and who wouldn’t want to feel like Lady Brett Ashley, at least for one evening?

The night we dined at Prune the entire staff was women, all wearing prune colored t-shirts. Ms. Hamilton herself walked the floor mid-way through the first seating, chatting briefly. Her book, Blood, Bones & Butter was a topic with several tables. The kitchen area at Prune is miniscule, and servers pluck fresh herbs from a pot just before bringing your plates to the table. All in all the atmosphere is sophisticated casual – shabby chic for food.

The menu is brief but not too small, with entrees between $20-30.  We started with the Roasted Marrow Bones and the Fried Sweetbreads with Bacon and Capers, both decadent treats that you can only eat with someone who is just as much of a foodie as you are. (It’s a rare gift from the universe to find a partner that doesn’t just tolerate eating offal, but suggests it.)

Fried Sweetbreads with Bacon and Capers

For dinner we tried the Rabbit Special and the Roasted Half Chicken with Salsa Verde. Both were cooked until just barely done, juicy and flavorful. While technically good, I wasn’t enamored of the salsa verde- I felt the Latin flavors didn’t really mesh with the rest of the menu. I would have preferred the chicken plain, or with some roasted lemons.

Dessert was Ricotta Fritters with Chocolate Sauce and Marscapone Ice Cream with Candied Lemon and Espresso. While both were good, I can easily say these were the best fritters I have ever had. I should qualify this by admitting that I don’t normally like fritters, but this doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried a lot of them. I always want to like them (pillows of fried dough, why not?) but the execution so often falls flat, dry, and oily. These were light, fluffy, and a great pairing to the chocolate sauce.

Prune is the kind of place you go when you want to pretend you’re an expatriate, gorge on really good, high quality food, and see the world through the antique-mirrored eyes of bygone days. Enjoy.

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