For today's review, I bring you Perla, Gabe Stulmans' newest restaurant on 24 Minetta Lane in the West Village.
This dinner was celebratory - a birthday dinner for a friend. She and I were both excited to try Perla, as neither of us had been before.
Tucked off the main drag and on Minetta Lane, Perla offers a cozy eating area that is one part tavern and one part great-grandpa's library, with large leather tufted booths, turn of the century etchings and vintage mirrors. A bar at the front (operated by some very helpful bartenders and offering a range of exciting cocktails) is balanced by a warm wood-fired brick oven in the back.
The menu starts off with a selection of "Assaggi" or "tastes" in Italian. We select some Potato Chips All'Amatriciana and a special - teeny weeny Porchetta Sandwich Bites.
The Chips are dusted with dried, dusted guanciale and Peccorino Cheese. This dried guanciale is some kind of magical synergy of science, cooking and pixie dust: as I bit into them, I could almost hear the maniacal laughing of a mad scientist cook in the distance....They are legitimately fabulous and we make very short work of them.
The Porchetta Bites (my moniker) are just that - bites. The moist and salty porchetta is sandwiched between two thin toasted baguette slices. I'm still on the fence as to whether these were the perfect "taste" of pork or slightly skimpy on the portioning, and they are, admittedly, nothing fancy, just meat and bread.
However, things look up from here are we are served a special Primi pasta of dark spinach spaghetti, an earthy pesto, and some chili flakes for kick.
This dish was wonderfully light and flavorful. We mixed it all up so that the pesto could mingle properly with the pasta. A slurp-tastic masterpiece, and a smooth opener for the headliner: The DUCK.
Or more specifically, the Saba Glazed Duck with delicata squash, cabbage and pancetta.
I might have to get all e.e. cummings on the description of this duck, because complete sentences will just deter from its greatness. It was...
when the duck is melty moist wonderful
and the squash sweetly
dances and weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
and crispypancetta dances atop
tangysaba duck skin
Ok, so I might have gotten carried away. And apologies to Mr. Cummings. He is a poet, and I am just an enthusiast of perfectly cooked duck. To me, the two went together. Let it be clear: I loved this duck. And so would e.e. If he had the chance to sample it, he might just capitalize something in his forgetful enthusiasm.
But let's move on! To dessert: The Chocolate Tart with Banana Zabaglione, Peanuts and Caramel Drizzle.
A narrow wedge of dense chocolate is nestled into a cracker crust. A dollop of banana zabaglione oozes off to the side and provides a light, fluffy and just banana-ed textural contrast to the chopped peanuts. A drizzle of caramel takes the sweetness up a notch. I found this dessert to be very well balanced. Often in tarts like these, the chocolate can be overly dense. This one was light but still rich and dark-chocolately. I particularly enjoyed the banana zabaglione - something new and inventive to replace the usual whipped cream.
Finally, some Chocolate Chip Cookies:
A little American comfort food arrived to close our Italian meal in the form of homemade chocolate chip cookies. There's something so wonderful about chocolate chip cookies. For me, I become a child again, internally (or sometimes externally) squealing with delight upon spotting them. And if they're warm....and gooey on the insides (as these were), well so much the better and my inner little girl is all hair in pigtails awaiting the first bite. Perla's version were soft and warm with an excellent consistency - not too buttery and greasy and not too sugary crispy.
The bathrooms were well-kept and homey with waist-high wood paneling and fixtures you might find in your own bathroom. I especially appreciated the marble slab ledge with added amenities and the grandma-style light fixture overhanging the spacious mirror.
I am veering toward reckless enthusiasm for Perla. I was mostly thrilled with my menu selections, and noted quite a few more that I am keen to try. Which means I will be back....maybe John will even come with me if I ask him nicely.
Overall Eating Experience: Napolean Dynamite
24 Minetta Lane, NYC