Via Carota

I will just continue with the theme of buzzy restaurants and tell you about my recent dinner at Via Carota. Opened by a chef couple who run two other West Village restaurants, Buvette and I Sodi, Via Carota is definitely their gorgeous love child. I find Jody Williams’ Buvette exceedingly charming and the perfect place for a croque and a cafe au lait on lazy Sundays. Its tendency to evoke Paris more than Paris is to its credit, especially when a Buvette in that city now exists. It is quintessential without being caricature. We reap the benefit. I have never been to Rita Sodi’s I Sodi, but I have the sense that it is kind of like an Italian Buvette. Or maybe not, because Via Carota feels a little bit like an Italian Buvette. Regardless, I had a very nice solo meal at the bar. Most people were still away on holidays and the air was chilly; I walked right in during prime time and had no problem getting a seat.

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I knew that I might run into trouble as a solo diner because like so many other places these days, the menu consists of a lot of small plates meant for sharing and “main courses” that consist of protein only. It was suggested to me that if I was hungry (but of course), then I might do well with an order of crostini, one of the many vegetables, and a main. I wondered if skipping the pastas would have me missing out. FOMO strikes again! They all sounded good, but as they were on the simple side that night, I went with the bartender’s suggestion for ordering. To start: chicken liver crostini and salsify with brown butter and thyme.

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Oh, I like chicken livers now. Just like it is hard to escape kale salads on menus (it is no longer just a Brooklyn thing), it is also hard to escape chicken liver toasts. At some point in the last year or so I gave in and was embarrassed to discover that the taste reminded me of dark meat, which I like.  Less picky by the day, I am. The bartender pushed the cheese and tomato crostini, but as handsome as he was, I was not going to be charmed away from the livers. It was a healthy slathering atop the nicely toasted bread (fear of large crumbs and lost liver unfounded), and the caramelized onions added a nice sweet note. The girl next to me asked if my salsify were french fries. Crispy would have been fine, but these parsnip-like batons were quite soft, requiring knife and fork work. Anything sitting in a pool of brown butter is delicious, and the thyme was a wonderful accent, but here is where solo dining takes a hit. The serving was not large, but it was a bit monotonous for one person. Perhaps I just should have had it come with my protein to act as a side.

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My protein of choice was the chopped steak or svizzerina, essentially a bunless hamburger. The svizzerina has set bloggers’ and Instagrammers’ hearts a flutter so I initially wanted to avoid conformity. I had thought about the octopus, but the bartender said the portion was small. He wanted me to have the fried rabbit, but I didn’t want to deal with bones. His eyes lit up when I asked about the svizzerina, so I gave in. I had just watched Whiplash and thought some rare red meat might be an appropriate follow-up to a movie with an unexpected amount of blood. Oh god, was it good. The meat, that is. Well-seasoned throughout, the contrast between softer pink middle and seared crust was perfect. A bun would have just gotten in the way of that. Smashing the roasted garlic on top was not necessary for full flavour, but it added a hell of a lot. Even the lightly fried rosemary offered up some nuance to the olive oil left on the plate, perfect as a dip for the already oiled house bread. The oil was too deliciously grassy to feel any guilt about having my fingers slicked with it. *The Mediterranean Diet*

There is always room for dessert, but hazelnut semifreddo and chocolate cake do not interest me. The ravioli of the person beside me did, but that is reason to come back.

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