I read a lot about Public, a restaurant near Little Italy and the Bowery, and decided to take V there to celebrate our first year together. It was a great choice: we had a truly unique meal with great service. It is hard to describe what 'kind' of restaurant Public is, even on their website the food is described only as "Free-spirited fusion." I'd say it is Australian/New Zealand-ish cuisine, which is definitely something new to me (though it is a bit similar to American and European).
We started our night in the Monday Room, next to the restaurant, it is a wine bar featuring 60 wines from around the world. The menu itself was cool, with, I believe, a kangaroo-fur cover. We had a interesting sommelier, with an accent, a handlebar mustache, thick-rimmed glasses and a three-piece suit. V was convinced this whole get-up was an act, because the accent was indistinguishable, and his look was so peculiar. I couldn't put my finger on it either, but overheard him say he was from Spain, which, to me, seemed reasonable. If we go back we'll have to see if he's changed to being from Romania or something with a new costume and a different mustache. Anyhow he was very friendly and helpful in guiding our wine choice. I ordered a great bottle of Spanish wine, Viña Pedrosa, that I thought was amazing. I'm no wine connoisseur, but it was smooth and full and rich, all things I like. All together the service was top-of-the-line - they even offered to take the flowers I had for V and put them in water for her.
Soon, the hostess from Public came to seat us. We had a nice table in the main dining room where we could sit side-by-side and see the whole space. Before arriving we had checked out the menu so we had a few ideas in mind for what to order. There are quite a few unique and exotic dishes to choose from. I'm lucky V is adventurous!
To begin with, we selected another bottle of wine, Public has a separate wine list than the Monday Room. I can't remember the vintage, etc but this was another great bottle. Then, for starters we ordered:
- Cured wild boar with Garrotxa cheese, marinated olives and caper berries. This was thin slices of meat, kind of carpaccio-style, but it was cured so it had a rich flavor that was great with the cheese. It was not too large, which is good for a starter but at the same time it seemed a little pricey.
- Grilled kangaroo on a coriander falafel with lemon-tahini sauce and green pepper relish. This was great. I've never had kangaroo before (nor boar), and the meat was tender and juicy. The relish was a bit spicy but getting a little bit of it in each bite added a nice kick. The falafel added a nice texture and some more subtle flavor. We both really enjoyed the dish.
On to the main courses, which were also rather unique, if not quite as exotic. I ordered the roast lamb sirloin on crispy goats cheese polenta with saffron braised baby vegetables and harissa aioli. Here the meat had great flavor but was a little tough. I really enjoyed the polenta, which was kind of compressed into a ring and served under the meat. The vegetables were nice but nothing amazing, little carrots and onions, etc.
V ordered the roast New Zealand venison loin, with Cabrales dumplings, oyster mushrooms and salsa verde. Lucky her, I kept wanting to try more of this, as it was definitely our favorite. The meat was just great, very flavorful and tender and cooked just right. Of course mushrooms are always a good thing, and the dumplings added some starch to the plate.
Honestly, I know we had dessert, but after two bottles of wine and a digestif (good scotch!) I can't remember what I chose. I'm pretty sure there was some chocolate, and maybe a caramelized drop of sugar...it was good! And indeed, Public was a perfect place for us to celebrate: not too formal, great food, and great service all around—plus they have little bars of soap in the bathroom that you can take home! We we're even considering going back just two days later.