This restaurant is closed!
85 Orchard Street (corner of Broome St.)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 226-5047
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Cuisine: New American
Area: Lower East Side
Entree Price: $20-25
Little Giant, owned by first time (and beautiful) restaurateurs Tasha Garcia (Gourmet, Norman's), and Julie Taras (Blue Hill) is a sweet little nook of a restaurant on the corner of Orchard and Broome, with a blond wood bar and matching Ikea-styled tables, a wild, wavy exposed brick ceiling, and fabric-covered pillowed banquets lining windowed walls. We strolled in on Friday night and the place was crowded with large groups of women and a few intimate tables of couples, leaning into each other with love (or something like that) in their eyes. It was loud and lively, and charming in a casual hip sort of way.
Dinner should by all means begin with a cocktail especially because Tasha and Julie take their cocktails seriously and have created a fresh and seasonal cocktail list that is quite impressive. In fact, I might even forgo Barrio Chino once in a while (my favorite margarita place located on the next block) for one of their Fresh Pineapple Margaritas ($8), made from house-infused pineapple tequila, with a splash of pineapple and fresh lime juice. Their fall signature is the Concord Grape Sparkler ($8) made from Greenmarket grapes, reduced to a sprightly syrup with lime juice and sugar and poured over ice with Sky Vodka, lemon and lime juices, and lemon-up soda.
Liquid diet aside, the seasonal American menu has some gems and some diamonds in the rough. A plate of Deviled Eggs ($5) can start you off while you peruse the menu. Whatever you decide, you should make a point of having the Sausages and Onions ($11). These were fantastic. And their story is kind of sweet. Julie and Tasha were a bit overwhelmed with the work of opening a restaurant and a sausage-obsessed friend agreed to stop by and help them out with the grinding and stuffing. He has been showing up once a week, with casings and Kitchen Aid in tow, to help them put their sausages together. The man in question is Dr. Howard Levitt, an ER doc who says he is their "sausage mentor." Now, doesn't every girl needs a sausage mentor? I think yes! Especially because the sausages he made last week were spectacular. They included duck flecked with scallions, sesame with hoison, lamb with mint, garlic, and a harrisa made from Chinatown chiles, and Berkshire pork butt ground up with speck, slab bacon, pureed fennel, apple, brown sugar, rosemary, thyme, and confited garlic. YUMMY! They are served sliced in meaty circles tossed in a tangle of caramelized onions, on a rectangular wooden platter with toasted Sullivan Street bread, and an assortment of housemade condiments—whole grain mustard, a dried cherry mustarda and a pear ginger mustard. (These condiments make a strong case for bringing your own Tupperware and smuggling this stuff home with you in your purse.)
After the sausage high, we were concerned about eating anything else, but we found that we also loved the creamy chicken liver with toast points and a piquant fig onion marmalade, though the liver was a bit cold and could have been left out to come up to room temperature so the flavors could fully express themselves. We also went for a small bowl of roasted beets served with their sautéed greens ($10) that was rustic and simple, topped with slabs of Humboldt Fog cheese and a crunchy shower of toasted hazelnuts.
The food high continued with Tasmanian Sea Trout ($20). The fish was expertly seared—its skin a crisp as a potato chip and its flesh pink and moist. It sat on a sweet and creamy celery root puree surrounded by brussel sprout leaves and chestnuts. I like my brussel sprouts left as little cabbages, so getting just the thin leaves alone was a bit of a buzz kill, but otherwise the dish was pretty much flawless. Alas, the Swine of the Week ($19) did not fare as well—but how can you resist a dish with that name? The swine was fine, but this Berkshire Pork Shoulder was not as wow-able as it could be. The meat was nicely braised but it was missing some punch—some spice, some sweetness, some heavier seasoning—something. The pork, pulled and shredded, was bedded on a pile of cold red cabbage and Asian pear slaw, which, while tasty, brought down the temperature of the meat, which was unfortunate because it sort of needed some warmth to bring it more to life. Maybe it would do better tucked inside a bun, or a under a healthy dose of barbecue sauce to rescue it from its nakedness atop that cold slaw? Just a thought.
There's menu also includes a dish called Baby's Got Bass (love that name—$22), which sounded great—wild stripped bass with Provencal-style baby clams, red and beluga lentil salad, and sweet garlic aioli. It's on my list for next time. And there will be a next time. I really liked Little Giant. This warm corner spot has got great soul and two very dedicated and passionate women behind it. While there are some misses on the menu—the chorizo bread pudding seemed absent of any and all chorizo—it's quite early yet, and I am sure this Little Giant will grow steadily into greatness.
Review By: Andrea Strong