Extra Virgin

by Susan on October 7, 2007

[Food:3/5]

It was a Saturday night and while excited that my plans included dinner at Extra Virgin in the West Village, I was a bit apprehensive of just how long we’d wait for a table at this hot spot that does not take reservations. At eight o’clock we were told the wait would be about 35 minutes and by quarter to nine we were seated at our table. Having a drink at the bar before dinner felt like part of the experience and with the right company, you won’t even notice the wait. During the warmer months Extra Virgin does have outdoor seating, but these tables are the most coveted and your wait time (and pre-dinner bar tab) will be significantly increased should you wait for one.

Michele Gaton and Joey Fortunato deserve a lot of credit and compliments for what they have accomplished at Extra Virgin. Without boastfulness or show, they have nailed so many aspects of a great restaurant. Extra Virgin has that warm, casual air of a neighborhood place, but enough distinctions to make it a destination regardless of where you live in Manhattan. The Mediterranean inspired menu features innovative dishes born from fresh ingredients. Portion sizes are generous and the price points are remarkably reasonable, if not amazingly so. Starters don’t exceed $12 and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a main dish over $19. We rubbed our eyes in disbelief when we perused the menu and again when we paid the bill.  

The namesake is derived from an international line-up of olive oils that are poured bread-side at your table.  The charming atmosphere of exposed brick walls, mirrors, and columns makes this incredibly narrow space inviting. Tables are pushed very close together, but the lively noise level and dim lighting allows for table conversation that isn’t self-conscious. Service was very good and food arrived very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I was happy we had initially lingered over our menus and delayed ordering.

A heaping pile of baby arugula glistened with small pieces of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and avocado. Served with grilled bread and a light dressing, the extra virgin salad was a simple and light starter. The roasted artichoke parmesan, served with a poached egg, pancetta, and a hollandaise dressing was inventive and decadent, without being too heavy. The artichoke, cut in half and grilled, was sweet and tender. The pancetta added just the right amount of salt while the hollandaise dressing was lighter than I imagined (in a good way) and added just the right amount of creaminess.

I’m never drawn to seared tuna steak on menus; for me, tuna is best served either raw at the sushi bar or in salad form between two pieces of bread. But something about Fortunato’s tuna called to me, and after my first bite I contemplated abandoning my tuna mantra all together. The tuna was seasoned and grilled perfectly. Every bite cut like butter and melted in my mouth. The accompanying whipped potatoes, however, could have been hotter and lacked sufficient cream and flavor. The halibut simply grilled was presented with tomatoes, spinach and olive oil (extra virgin, of course) and was also well executed. The fresh fish shined with just the right amount of seasoning. Both fish dishes were simple, though they never came across as uninspired.

The savory and sweet tart apple, served with sour cream ice cream, was the perfect ending note to our meal.

As we made our way to the street, maneuvering through patrons still waiting for an outdoor table, I began to plot just how soon I would be able to return.

Extra Virgin
www.extravirginrestaurant.com
259 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10014
(212) 691-9359

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