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Core 191

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Core 191

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Address: 191 Orchard St
City: New York, NY
Zip: 10002
Phone: (212) 228-9888
Fax: (212) 228-3339
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Map: Map
Cuisine: New American
2nd Cuisine: Tapas/Small Plates
Area: Lower East Side
Entree Price: $10-15



If it’s one thing food-obsessed New Yorkers have learned lately, it’s that small plates don’t often equal small bills. The city’s new share-and-share-alike culture of tapas-like dishes has left many an unsuspecting New Yorker dashing to the nearest ATM. So bring plenty of moolah when you visit Core One Nine One, one of the Lower East Side’s newest eateries. The prices per dish here are fairly gentle, but chef Stephen Boissel’s cooking is so delicious that you’ll keep ordering and ordering, cost be damned. (Take note: if you come for brunch, the plates are normal-sized.) Here’s another caveat. Don’t go to Core unless you’re in the mood for a lot of decision-making. First, you need to decide where to sit. On a balmy, breezy evening, you can’t do better than the spacious backyard garden (complete with a big television in the corner), although the smaller patio or comfortable indoor dining room (adjacent to a larger lounge) might be the right option on other nights. Then comes the daunting question of what to drink. The house’s specialty cocktails are plenty appealing if a little pricey. As for wine, my dining companion opted for a Sancerre Rouge (at a hefty $11 per glass) and quickly declared it his new favorite beverage. Boissel, whose culinary background includes stints at La Cote Basque, Gilt, and his parents’ place, Les Pleiades, has a gorgeous eye for presentation and a discerning palate that knows to how use ingredients in ways that, while novel, seem completely natural once you’ve tried them. His menu is cleverly divided into four categories – Garden, Ocean, Farm, and Sweet – while aptly enough, Cheese stands alone. (The selection comes from Saxelby Cheesemongers in the nearby Essex Street Market and the cheeses are excellent. Have them as dessert, before dessert, or even as a starter if you like.) Counting the cheese plate, my friend and I sampled twelve dishes, which is more than two people need to. (You can probably do fine with three or four per person). Of the Garden variety, the clear winner was a fabulous bowl of warm steamed asparagus and wild mushrooms topped with a poached egg and bathed in a sherry vinaigrette. A smallish glass of cubed heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella just shouted summer, while bowls of pleasing hummus and artichoke dip were outclassed by the wonderful homemade lavash that accompanied them. From the Ocean, a pair of truly divine sea scallops served with “toasted vermicelli” earned top honors in my book; while a trio of rosemary-skewered shrimp was beyond reproach -- and the cup of yummy gazpacho that joined them was even better. Boissel wins points for ingenuity in the Farm category by setting slices of nicely rare spice-rubbed duck on a dollop of Greek yogurt dotted with sesame seeds and pine nuts, along with some roasted figs for added taste and texture. Gorgeously rare hanger steak was satisfying if unexciting, while a pair of lamb chops arrived slightly overcooked. Desserts, as they often do, redeemed any prior flaws. The restaurant’s charming manager, Brian Ritchie, is right to urge Boissel to patent his insanely good mini red-beet macaroons filled with a Valhrona chocolate ganache; the four little cookies come beautifully arranged with a scoop of enchanting jasmine sorbet at the other end. And I was wild about fresh-as-can-be strawberries poached in balsamic vinegar, paired with a superb poppy-seed shortbread crowned with whipped cream and more berries. With sweets like these, Core’s garden became our own Garden of Eden.

Review By: Brian Scott Lipton