Sietsema revisits Landmarc
Today another dispatch from Our Man Sietsema appeared in my inbox. This time, he's been reevaluating Landmarc in Tribeca, a place that he loved when it first opened, not the least for its affordable wine list. Is the wine still cheap? Does he still adore it? You'll have to read to find out.
Hey Sarah --
Ever since I first reviewed Landmarc in Tribeca not long after its opening, I’ve been recommending the restaurant to people that wanted an upscale place to celebrate special events. I’ve been touting it for its bucolic location in Tribeca and pleasant brick-clad interior; for its menu that combines steaks and chops with more forward-looking dishes, and, especially, for its low markups on wine. As I noted in 2005, “good bottles are often the same price as mediocre bottles elsewhere.”
As Landmarc nears its three-year anniversary, after it has spun off a Columbus Circle branch and the more down-market Ditch Plains (a sort of surfer hot dog bar) in the West Village, I wondered if the parent establishment had managed to maintain its excellence.
A friend and I arrived in the middle of the tomato scare, a threat that the city’s useless Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could develop no program for preventing. (They’re effective only at promoting the sale of rubber gloves, as far as I can tell.) Seated upstairs with a view of the construction site across the street, we went right for a special of cucumber gazpacho which neatly solved the problem of how to deal with the raw tomato threat (skip ‘em!). The cold soup was perfect in every way, garlicky and tasting of the garden. It was also the most delicate shade of green, with a miniature skin-on dice of kirbies in the center. What qualifies it as gazpacho? The soup was thickened in the old-fashioned Andalusian way with a paste of bread crumbs, which created a texture that was unforgettable.
The other dishes we sampled were just as good, including al dente asparagus spears thicker than most and nicely garnished with tarragon aioli and chopped egg (cryptically dubbed “asparagus mimosa”). The pasta of the day proved just as spectacular as it was on my earlier visits, in this case an orecchiette alla norcina, name-checking the Umbrian town of Norcia, which is famous for its pork products. The rich, cream-laced pasta was dotted with flavorful Italian sausage, and you’re not likely to find a better pasta in Tribeca. Finally, we had one of the steaks cooked Tuscan-style over the flaming hearth on the first floor. Watching the grill guy at work is the best reason I can think of for sitting in the downstairs barroom rather than upstairs or out front among the sidewalk tables. The strip steak was excellent – pink in the middle, almost crumbly in the way dry-aged beef should be, and blackened and smoky on the surface.
But when I consulted the wine menu, I was a bit disappointed. There were few bottles under $40, and the markups seemed higher than they’d been before, though still a good deal by fancy restaurant standards. The bottles I was most interested in came from the Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which are just now receiving their due from wine critics. The Dobbes Family Vineyard Pinot Gris ($36) was light and spicy for a red, with only a little oak shading, and it proved the perfect complement to the meal. Most of the Italian and French wines, though, were too expensive for all but the wealthiest drinkers.
Still, I’m going to keep recommending Landmarc, especially for the excellent food.