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Carbone’s $50 Veal Parm, Lobster, ’50s Pop Rock: Review

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Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, and Jeff Zalaznick, owners of Carbone in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, at Carbone. The young venue is already one of New York's most accomplished seafood restaurants.

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Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, and Jeff Zalaznick, owners of Carbone in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, at Carbone. The young venue is already one of New York's most accomplished seafood restaurants. Close

Chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone, and Jeff Zalaznick, owners of Carbone in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, at... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

The components of Carbone's $17 Caesar, set on a tray. The salad is prepared tableside and takes 3-4 minutes. Close

The components of Carbone's $17 Caesar, set on a tray. The salad is prepared tableside and takes 3-4 minutes.

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Carbone's rich and rewarding Caesar. Close

Carbone's rich and rewarding Caesar.

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Carbone, in the old Rocco space at 181 Thompson. The high-end red sauce resturant is among Greenwich Village's most expensive dining spots. Close

Carbone, in the old Rocco space at 181 Thompson. The high-end red sauce resturant is among Greenwich Village's most... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

A dining room at Carbone. Artwork curated by Vito Schnabel hangs on the walls. Close

A dining room at Carbone. Artwork curated by Vito Schnabel hangs on the walls.

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Lobster Fra Diavolo at Carbone. It costs $88 for a 2.5 pound crustacean covered in a brandy, soffrito and chile pepper sauce, and an addition of lobster stock. Close

Lobster Fra Diavolo at Carbone. It costs $88 for a 2.5 pound crustacean covered in a brandy, soffrito and chile... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Spicy rigatoni vodka at Carbone. It is made with sweet butter, incendiary Calabrian chilies and al dente noodles. Close

Spicy rigatoni vodka at Carbone. It is made with sweet butter, incendiary Calabrian chilies and al dente noodles.

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Assorted baked clams come three ways: Oreganata with purposefully soggy breadcrumbs, Casino with bacon and peppers, and Fantasia with sweet sea urchin. Close

Assorted baked clams come three ways: Oreganata with purposefully soggy breadcrumbs, Casino with bacon and peppers,... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Thomas Waugh, bar director at Carbone. The flavors in the restaurant's $15 Mai Tai are strong rum, fragrant lime, sweet almond and cool mint. Close

Thomas Waugh, bar director at Carbone. The flavors in the restaurant's $15 Mai Tai are strong rum, fragrant lime,... Read More

Photographer: Philip Lewis/Bloomberg

Carrot Cake at Carbone. The $12 dessert is sliced into free-standing half moons. Close

Carrot Cake at Carbone. The $12 dessert is sliced into free-standing half moons.

Your $400 date at Carbone doesn’t begin with anything fancy. No caviar, no foie gras.

Instead, your waiter appears in a red Zac Posen tuxedo, looking and sounding like Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny.” He pierces a chunk of parmesan with a blade and lays it on your plate. Then come tomato-softened grandma bread and smoky American prosciutto.

And there it is, all the components of a ham-and-cheese sandwich at a hammed up joint where 1950s rock pipes through the speakers, where the art is curated by Vito Schnabel and the red saucery can cost almost as much as a meal at Jean-Georges.

This all comes courtesy of the team behind Torrisi, a small tasting-menu venue that proved we’ll pay as much for the best Italian-American food as we will for the finest French fare.

Carbone, in the dark and clubby space that was once Rocco, is Torrisi’s a la carte analogue. Getting in is just as tough and with good reason: This Greenwich Village spot is spectacular.

Veal parm, which commands $12 as a deli sandwich, is a $50 chop at Carbone. Nostalgia may be free but first-rate veal costs.

Still, Carbone embraces the culinary yesteryear. Servers upsell you with perfectly porky, off-the-menu “meat-a-balls.”

Listing the specials takes three minutes; tossing Caesar salad tableside even longer. That salad costs $17 and it’s flawless: cool, parmesan-slicked lettuce, anchovy fillets and buttery croutons.

Scottish Langoustines

Scampi, $38, swaps out bland shrimp for Scottish langoustines, which become silky sponges for white wine and garlic butter. Carabineros, a regal variety of prawns rarely seen in New York, somehow pack the color and flavor of concentrated shellfish stock. Cost: $64.

Order the $48 per-person antipasti, a tasting of seven or eight dishes that lays down the luxury hard. Fresh mozzarella is anointed with firm sturgeon caviar. A terrine of foie gras appears with chives on top: “Liver and onions,” quips the waiter.

Fluke becomes Le Bernardin-worthy as a chaud-froid combo of raw flesh and charred fin, all drenched in basil oil. Sweet sea urchin tops baked clams like seaside whipped cream.

Pepper Bliss

The young Carbone is already one of our city’s finest seafood spots. Posillipo is code for Manhattan shellfish chowder, pure red-pepper-and-Worcestershire bliss. “Stracciatella” tastes like a ramp-spiked riff on the best part of any fish shack: the sweet crab meat that gets stuck at the bottom of a plastic butter ramekin. You greedily eat it with a spoon.

All that fat calls for an unusually tannic sparkler (Camillo Donati, $15), or perhaps a Jay-Z-style “Black Label” Gavi, in all its aromatic, $26-by-the glass glory. Torrisi types frustrated by that restaurant’s American-only wines can rejoice in Carbone’s $200 Barolos and other Italian extravagances.

I might make do with a Godme Pere et Fils Champagne ($85) and pair the bubbles with an $87.50 lobster; the tender flesh becomes an agent for a fra diavolo sauce whose clean red pepper and brandy flavors would merit Michelin-stars in any era, 1952 or now.

That crustacean clocks in at 2 1/2 pounds. This is studied over-indulgence, an ode to the gigantic proteins of post-war America. The $140 mixed grill, billed for two, feeds four. Included: Two whole squabs (appropriately livery), two giant dry-aged lamb chops (powerfully musky), fennel-coated pork ribs (getting full), and sweetbread skewers (make them stop!). And juicy boar sausage, sampled eight hours later from a doggy bag.

Veal Marsala

Other restaurants hand out parting gifts. Carbone hands out leftovers. Charcoal-grilled veal marsala ($52) tastes even better out of the fridge at midnight, when all the mushroom sauce gels around the fatty meat.

Pastas are Carbone’s weak spot. The noodles are reliably cooked but lack a wow factor. Only rigatoni alla vodka, the bane of banquet halls, becomes majestic, with enough Calabrian chilies, tomatoes and butter to make you wonder whether this is how Buffalo wings should be made.

Out comes the marsala-spiked tiramisu ($12). Then fried dough strips appear. And gratis bottles of all-you-can-drink grappa. And limoncello. Look at your bill and have another “complimentary” digestif.

Rating: ***1/2

The Bloomberg Questions:

Price: Easily over $150 per person.

Sound Level: Hustling and bustling, about 75 decibels.

Date Place: Yes.

Inside Tip: T-bone comes with black truffle beef tartare.

Special Feature: Best deal is the $29 Chinese chicken.

Back on my own dime? Absolutely.

Carbone is at 181 Thompson St. Information: +1-212-254-3000 or http://carbonenewyork.com.

Sound-Level (in decibels): 51 to 55: Quiet enough to converse. 56 to 60: Speak up. 61 to 65: Lean in if you want to hear your date. 66 to 70: You’re reading one another’s lips. 71 to 75: You’re yelling. 76 to 85: Ear-splitting din.

(Ryan Sutton writes about New York City restaurants for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Tumblr at www.thepricehike.com or www.thebaddeal.com.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on Broadway and James Russell on Google’s new HQ.

To contact the writer of this column: Ryan Sutton in New York at rsutton1@bloomberg.net or qualityrye on http://twitter.com/qualityrye

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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