The Smith

by Susan on March 18, 2008

[Food:3/5]

On a Tuesday night The Smith was packed with a lively crowd. If they were in search of reasonably priced drinks and comfort food, they did not leave disappointed.

The Third Avenue space used to be a Pizzeria Uno and the ghosts of deep dish linger over the low lighting, dark booths, and high-octane noise level. With its white-tiled walls, vintage-type photos, co-ed bathroom, and photo booth, The Smith is the quirky and upscale cousin of a college hangout. It is not the place to take your parents for an evening out.

The Smith secures the success of its comfort food and drink with digestible prices. Starters are under $10 and Main Courses are under $20. Whimsical cocktails did not exceed $9 and Draft Beers were $5. House wines, offered by the Glass, Carafe, and Big Carafe, were priced for consumption.

Service was friendly and timely, though our young female server did often look like a deer in headlights, prompting someone at our table to remark, “I think she is scared of us”. It was a definite possibility.

Tuna Tartare was out of place in a Starter section where almost every other option had cheese, bacon, or promised to emerge from a fryer. Tossed with jalapeno and topped with cucumber slaw, the tuna was well-prepared and of good quality. The dish’s measly size was its only downfall. I can only assume the reason being to keep its price in line with the other starters.

On the other hand, we were unable to fully consume the heaping mound of Fried Calamari. Prepared “Brooklyn Style,” the calamari was not tender nor was its batter particularly tasty. (I can only assume these are not “Brooklyn Style” qualities; whatever that may mean). While the fried rings weren’t greasy, they lacked the crispy coating we expected. The surprisingly robust marinara sauce, however, deserved kudos.

Though the Mac + Cheese arrived in its own cast iron pot, it was devoid of the requisite brown and bubbly top that normally accompanies any food prepared in such a vessel. The macaroni, cooked al dente, did have a good consistency but the dish itself was in desperate need of salt.

Keeping in line with the high fat, comfort food theme, I gave in to temptation and ordered the Beer Battered String Beans. I was so glad that I did; the beans put the calamari to shame.

Everything about the Pot of Mussels was tremendous. The meaty mussels were some of the biggest ones I’d ever seen and the sheer number of them was astounding. The Chardonnay broth infused the mussels with just the right amount of seasoning, but logistics got in the way of ultimate success. Because the pot was so tall, it was near-impossible to get to the liquid at the bottom. Sadly, just as I was getting full, the elusive broth became accessible. The accompany fries were the crispy, skinny ones that you can’t help but stuff into your mouth by the handful.

The Smith’s meat-free version of the Korean rice dish, Vegetable “Bibimbap,” was solidly prepared with a sunny-side up egg and vegetables, but was fairly bland. How it found its way to the menu, wedged between the Sausage and Pork Chop, is unclear.

One of the evening’s specials, a “gently” Braised Lamb Shank might be an indication of the kitchen’s abilities and potential. Tender meat adhered to the bone but fell away obediently the minute your fork pulled at it. A deep braising sauce, ladled with restraint, allowed the meat to stand on its own.

The Smith’s Burger Deluxe has its own section on the menu. It deserves it. Bacon, cheese, and special sauce graced a hearty meat patty cooked a perfect medium rare. It was juicy and flavorful.

The desserts, an assortment of flavor-themed ice cream Sundaes (think strawberry and peanut butter) concluded our meal on a somewhat lackluster note. But looking around the room filled with smiling and energetic co-eds, I’d venture to say our sentiments were not shared.

The Smith
www.thesmithnyc.com
55 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10003
(212) 420-9800

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