Stepping into Smith's NYC is a bit like stepping into the horse race scene from My Fair Lady. Everything is black and white and feels oh so chic. We walked past the few sidewalk tables, past the main dining room, and into our dining corridor. It was about as wide as a train car, with booths on one side, and tiny two tops on the other. The mirrored ceiling curved overhead, reflecting the soft yellow light of the chandelier sconces. The place felt delicate and modern, though it was a bit loud. But that may be inevitable when you're in a small space with so many people.
My cousin and I had come for the Spring Chicken Dinner. On Monday and Tuesday nights, Smith's NYC offers a three course meal for two people for $35 total. Given that this is New York, where everything is almost always more expensive than it is in LA, $17.50 a person sounded pretty amazing.
After placing our order we were given a canister filled with two kinds of bread and a little ramekin of hummus. The Italian bread was feather light with a nice chewy crust and tasted so fresh it could have been baked an hour ago. The Olive bread had that same airy freshness, and the bite of the olive went beautifully with the hummus, which had a strong chickpea flavor.
First came the green salad, which did indeed taste of spring. The peppery, almost bitter greens were tossed with shaved fresh veggies like carrots, radishes, and fennel, as well as some tomatoes and snap peas. It was all dressed in a salty almost warm dressing that served to accentuate the bright, crisp flavors. .
Then came the main event, an entire chicken with two side dishes. The chicken was served in a cast iron skillet and came covered in herbs. The skin was crispy and positively packed with flavor, while the meat was delicate and tender. Although it was done perfectly, I wouldn't say this was anything to write home about. It felt like the kind of thing you should be able to make for yourself, full of chicken-y flavor, but nothing to elevate it to the realm of extraordinary. (Although, to be honest, I myself have never attempted an entire chicken and therefore have no idea how hard it is to make something this simple so tasty).
The roasted veggies were served in what looked like a mini dutch oven. (I wanted to steal all the serving dishes to do my own cooking for two!). The potatoes, onions, asparagus, and mushrooms tasted as though they'd been frolicking through fields of butter and herbs and were thoroughly enjoyable. The mushrooms in particular were delicious, thanks to their spongy texture soaking up all the delectable flavor.
Our favorite dish of the evening by far was the polenta. They must use about a pound of cheese for each ounce of polenta, as the flavor absolutely explodes in your mouth! The creamy richness was offset by a pleasing tang, probably owing to buttermilk somewhere in the mixture. The tiny dish was so indulgent that we could only finish half of it, but were left wishing we had more room in our stomachs.
We ended the evening with the Chocolate Mousse, probably our least favorite part of the meal (and it takes a lot for me to say that about dessert). Although the texture was rich and creamy, the chocolate flavor was a mere suggestion, not the powerful statement I look for it to be. The best part was the toffee bits on top, the only sparkle of sweet flavor in the whole dish.
Overall, Smith's provides a lovely atmosphere and a terrific value for a night out in NYC. I give this three and a half belt notches.
Smith's NYC has $35 Spring Chicken Dinners every Monday and Tuesday night. 79 MacDougal Street New York, NY 10012 phone: 212.260.0100 www.smithsnyc.com