Orange wine? Anything co-owner Sebastian Zutant wants us to drink more of, count me in. Intriguing wines at user-friendly prices make this bustling newcomer in Bloomingdale worth crossing town for, but so, too, does the relaxed Italian cooking from Michael Friedman. Like Zutant, the chef is an alumnus of the wine-inclined Proof in Penn Quarter; their partner, Mike O’Malley, makes sure the dining room, accessorized with chicken art, runs smoothly.
Seasonal salads and crostini make good first impressions; smoked ricotta drizzled with truffle honey goes down as easily on toasted bread as chicken liver with fresh thyme and Parmesan. Forge on with pasta, maybe something hearty such as creste di gallo combined with braised duck, mushrooms and black olives. (Italian speakers should pick up on the wit; the pasta is shaped like a rooster’s crest.)
Scallops enriched with seemingly a stick of butter reveal a chef who can get carried away at times; Friedman is also liberal with salt. And as much as I love all the wood — the oak-stoked kitchen hearth is mesmerizing, the furniture crafted from canella handsome — Red Hen’s hard surfaces create a boombox.
Worth crowing about: roast leg of lamb sandwiched with broccoli rabe and saffron mayonnaise on crisp bread, and servers who act like neighbors in part because most live close by.