Chef Sam DeMarco, formerly of First and District, has marked his re-entry into the New York dining scene with a $3 million venture midtown at the Omni Berkshire Hotel. Fireside is technically situated within the hotel’s domain, but this spot has managed to take on an identity and entrance of its own. A surprisingly alluring midtown refuge on a frigid winter’s night, the fireplace accoutrements, checkered table tops and dark woods, all lend themselves to a cozy, library-like atmosphere. But perhaps the most charming of all, are the damask-draped nooks, where customers can dine in seclusion or adjourn for post-dinner cocktails.
Fireside has jumped on the admirable seasonal cocktail wagon, serving up inspired riffs on classics: cider martini, hibiscus sidecar & huckleberry mojito. Though the huckleberry mojito was an ambrosial cocktail with fresh huckleberries & a tall sprig of mint, I was particularly partial to "Chef Sammy’s Cucumber Gimlet", a soothing and refreshing Hendrick’s-spiked concoction. While the cocktails were decidedly more noteworthy than the fare, Sam’s "cocktail cuisine" has a global, comfort food appeal.
If you can overlook the gimmick factor of cutesy categories scattered about the menu – "sam"wiches, midtown shuffle and fireSIDES – there are some food gems worth sampling. Skip the underwhelming chopped salad, cradled in a lettuce cup, as well as the bbq osso bucco; the smokiness of the bbq sauce overwhelmed not only the pork, but also its gentle bed of creamy cheese grits. Ditto on the beets, a skewer of cloying beets, kumquats and an unremarkable goat cheese fritter. The wild boar bolognese strozzapreti, laced with a wonderfully flavorful tomato sauce and succulent nibbles of boar, was not to be outdone by a luscious lobster salad riding sweet, fresh-baked brioche buns. Perfect for after-work cocktails and homey bites, Fireside makes for a solid midtown option.
19 East 52nd St., btwn. Madison & Park Aves.
Hours of Operation: Breakfast, lunch & dinner, 7 days a week.
Until we eat again,
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