What’s not to love about Red Hen in Bloomingdale? At a recent dinner, “The Chew” co-host Carla Hall lighted up a coveted window table, pals had to remind me to share the saffron fettuccine with braised chicken and a shower of mustardy crumbs, and Sebastian Zutant, the resident wine wiz, announced that the wine he was introducing us to was “my favorite wine of the whole year.” (A sip of the orange Vino Costo from Spain hooked me, too.)
In its early months, the smoke-perfumed retreat helmed by chef Michael Friedman poured on the salt. No more. Everything that lands on my table these days — lamb meatloaf sandwiched with smoked onions, halibut atop soft polenta and ginned up with grilled kale — makes me wish I lived closer to a kitchen that also combines chickpeas, lentils, salami and smoked mozzarella into a salad worthy of a food cover. The tie that binds, brilliantly: oregano vinaigrette. “Mom’s” pound cake, meanwhile, has me briefly considering a parent swap with the chef.
Dominated by a central bar and an oak-fired hearth, the cozy Red Hen hires cool kids, one of whom, server Jared Barker, farms on the side and occasionally rewards regulars with his fabulous eggs. The restaurant sounds close to perfect, but it’s not; I’d go more often, but my ears won’t let me.