Seven Years in, Market Table Is in Good Hands
For this week's review, I headed to The Clam (420 Hudson Street, 212-242-7420), Mike Price and Joey Campanaro's sleek bivalve-centric restaurant. It's an aesthetic departure from the partners' other West Village establishment Market Table (54 Carmine Street, 212-255-2100) (and from Campanaro's Little Owl), but Price's Chesapeake Bay comfort cooking is just as endearing as ever. In talking with the chef, we learned that he's been mostly behind the scenes at Market Table, which opened in 2007 in the original Shopsin's space, the year after Owl took the West Village by storm -- he hired David Standridge as executive chef in August 2012. "The menu is now 70 percent his," Price told Laura Shunk. So after sampling Price's current offerings at The Clam, I hustled over to Market Table to see what Standridge had cooking.
Market Table launched with a grocery in its front quarters, though that quaint gimmick was done away with less than a year later to make room for more seating. Although the open kitchen facing the entrance casts a welcome glow, the restaurant's charms pool in the back dining room thanks to its inviting back-lit bar and nearly floor-to-ceiling windows.
Standridge's menu pulls from several global cuisines in the New American fashion -- Szechuan pepper-crusted Piedmontese beef served with shishito peppers share page space with chorizo and monkfish sitting in lemon broth -- but there's a common thread in the American South. For anyone who's fed up with kale and its evil ways, the chef braises his greens (lacinato kale in this case) with molasses, chili, and smoked salt, lending the side dish a flavor somewhere in between stewed collard greens and hijiki seaweed.
A shared portion of ricotta cavatelli, the buckled dumplings heavily coated in pork and mushroom ragú, was redolent with rosemary and toasted pine nuts. Mix in the dollop of fresh ricotta that crowns the dish to smooth out the sauce. It makes for a lovely, homey start to a meal or an excellent snack at the bar with a glass of wine from a selection of mostly European and American bottles.
Another great snack, and surely a sign of the times, are the quinoa hushpuppies, which come with a smoky aioli. The ancient grains fry up nicely, although they desperately need their tangy sauce despite the addition of capers and lemon. The soft interior achieves a nice contrast, but it's only lightly seasoned.
Each week, the restaurant receives a whole Berkshire hog and offers daily specials using different cuts. On the night I visited, the pairing was a European and Lowcountry-inspired mashup of mustard-spackled tête de cochon and weisswurst-style sausage separated by a beach of buttery grits scattered with mushrooms and watercress. The dish came together beautifully, although between the richness of the grits and the sausage, mining the gelatinous depths of the tête de cochon was a challenge.
Seven years in, and Market Table's pulse shows no sign of slowing. With Standridge doing most of the heavy lifting, the menu continues to evolve while Mike Price focuses his energy on his newest venture. This old place is clearly in good hands.