One of the chef’s salads snaps me out of my stupor. Pink radishes, diced pineapple, batons of jicama, fresh mint and sharp feta will do that to a guy. Pow! Bang! The toss, invigorated with a lime-blasted vinaigrette, is vivid and fun. “Put sex in the food,” McCarty’s mentor, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, advised his cooks, the protege recalls. Among the charcuterie selections is a very good smoked bluefish pâté served in a Mason jar with thin slices of dark rye bread. Garnishes of radishes, red onion and parsley turn the spread into a picnic for the shore. And vegetarians can look forward to McCarty’s “pastiche” of pearl onions, wax beans, pickled watermelon radishes and black quinoa over which a sweet-and-sour broth is poured. Another detail to toast: the presence of 10 cocktails for $10 (you read that right) from the bar.
I wish there were more “sex” to tell you about. Gnocchi with glazed mushrooms is not something the Italian at my table recognized; like her, I found the appetizer slick on the tongue and funky in fragrance. Fish entrees have been particularly disappointing. Skate on parsnip puree with pieces of rhubarb tastes like winter colliding with spring, a misguided notion made worse by oddly leathery fish. Silken-textured Chilean sea bass needs to lose its dessert-sweet baby eggplant, or at least the chef needs to dial back the sugar in the vegetable.