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Forge

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134 Reade St., between Hudson & Greenwich Aves. (212) 941-9401

Tue.-Sun., 5 p.m.-11 p.m.

CUISINE Modern American
VIBE Wintry Tribeca haunt
OCCASION Casual date; group dinner
DON’T MISS DISH Kampachi tartare; fettuccine “carbonara”
PRICE Appetizers, $12-$18; entrees, $26-$34; dessert, $9-$11
RESERVATIONS Recommended

Larry Forgione is often called the “godfather of American cooking.” His restaurant in St. Louis,
An American Place, is a tribute to our country’s rich culinary history,
a place where home-cooking standards like mac and cheese go to get
refurbished.

For Marc Forgione,
Larry’s 29-year-old son, that’s a tough act to follow. But after
working beside his father for a couple of years, he has opened an
American place of his own, Forge, in Tribeca. The
windows have been flung open onto the overheated streets. Customers
have come in a summery mood, wearing sundresses and sandals. And yet,
it feels like winter inside this dimly lit cocoon.

Forge is a dressed-up, down-home restaurant that serves dressed-up, down-home cooking. But don’t let looks fool you.  Potato salad can be a splendid thing. At Per Se, Thomas Keller lifts it into a state of transcendence. At Forge- not so transcendent. The amuse bouche is a simple spoonful of
potato salad topped with caviar. It tastes like a picnic gone awry, a
muddle of flavors that even caviar can’t redeem.

Or take the
chicken “nuggets.” To my companion’s disappointment, they aren’t
fast-food size. Or fast-food priced. They cost $14, and they’re the
size of chicken handballs, served, as handballs should be, with onion
remoulade plagued by much too much mayonnaise. Not everything is
American at Forge. And not everything at Forge is unsuccessful.

The
fettuccine “carbonara” – not my quotations marks – is really good:
supple ribbons of pasta painted with cream sauce and specked with
crispy chunks of bacon, peas and oyster mushrooms. It’s a
do-it-yourself carbonara, crowned with a sunny yellow yolk.

But the kampachi tartare is even better – fresh, sweet shreds of baby yellowtail sprinkled with pine nuts, radish, and avocado.

Most
dishes seem to be missing one pivotal player. It’s a slightly tragic
but recurring theme that unfolds over a succession of dinners. The coco
bean “risotto” ends up tasting like overcooked white beans, a listless
landscape for sliced medallions of lamb that deserve something brighter
than a whisper of lemon. There is a duck entrée that comes with its own
cloying swamp of cherry reduction as well as a virtually tasteless
snapper “en croute.”

Come dessert, do the American thing and
order the summer berry pie. It arrives in a teacup, but the ripeness of
the berries could easily engulf a pie of extravagant dimensions. It
comes with a crème fraiche ice cream. Or try the chocolate bread
pudding with kirsch-steeped cherries and pistachio ice cream. Whatever
you do, Forge on to dessert. No pun intended, of course.

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