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10 Downing

10 downing.jpg10 Downing St., at Sixth Ave.
(212) 255-0300
Tue.-Wed. 6 p.m.- 12 a.m.;
Thu.-Sat. 6 p.m.-1 a.m.;
Sun. 6 p.m.- 12 a.m.; closed Mon.
CUISINE
French-inflected American
VIBE
Bustling downtown eatery
OCCASION
Casual date, neighborhood bites, family or group dinner
DON’T MISS DISH
Trout tartare, squid ink agnolotti, coffee-scented semi freddo
AVERAGE PRICE
Appetizers $10; entrees $24; desserts $8
RESERVATIONS
Recommended

Here’s the first thing you need to know you about 10 Downing. Order
the charcuterie, especially the duck liver mousse and the duck
prosciutto.

There’s a lot of charcuterie in this town, even housemade
charcuterie, a lot of it obligatory, a lot of it ordinary. I overlooked
the 10 Downing charcuterie on my first two visits. When it comes to the
table, pay attention because the chef is paying attention.

Here’s the second thing you need to know. Wear earplugs. And the
third thing? This is one tough restaurant to get into. I mean literally
— shouldering your way through the crowd, past the waiters carrying hot
plates, around the coat check mob, and beyond the hostess stand. Good
luck with that.

And this is one of the few restaurants that quotes Miss Piggy on the
menu. “Never eat more than you can lift.” Not that the girls at 10
Downing — a sea of young girls — is ever likely to over-order.

For
some reason, there are two chefs — a consulting chef and a regular
chef. But it’s much more Jason Neroni in the kitchen, much less Katy
Sparks.

The foundation of the menu is traditional French cuisine. But Neroni
adds dishes from other neighboring cuisines. His approach is to
simplify a classic, take it apart, isolate it. By doing so, he gives it
a new clarity. His duck meatball cassoulet isn’t an epic cassoulet —
the kind that’s made with seven meats or cooks for three days. It’s all
about the flageolet beans and meatballs instead. I was surprised to
find aligot puree. You may not even know what aligot means. It’s French
for really cheesy mashed potatoes.

One of the best dishes on the menu is the squid ink agnolotti. A lot
of times “squid ink” pasta tastes like white pasta dyed black. This
tastes as though the squid inked the agnolotti. It tastes like the sea.
And so the does the peekytoe crab on top. I also loved the ocean trout
tartar, a dish with no specific nationality.

Neroni gives trout the kind of treatment you would give steak
tartar. He glosses it with chorizo oil. He mixes the trout with pickled
mustard, chives, pine nuts, and then tops the whole thing with a quail
egg.

But there’s an over-and-under problem at 10 Downing. For
example, the Arctic char. The char was killed before it came to market,
so why poach it to a second death? I’ve never seen a man recoil from a
steak. But when the hanger steak arrived — black and blue and bleeding
— my friend sent it hastening back to the kitchen.

This was, no
fooling, raw. As for the gnocchi, the server said they would melt in my
mouth, which implies that they were actually cooked.

Neroni also
makes the desserts at 10 Downing and he does a great job of it. I’d
order the chocolate cake souffle just for the malted milk ice cream.
Just when I thought I couldn’t stomach another cheeky riff on peanut
butter & jelly, Neroni convinced me otherwise. Who could turn their
nose up at peanut butter gelato, concord grape jam and challah?

One
last thing about 10 Downing, they also take their wines very seriously.
Seven whites by the glass, seven reds, four sparkling, and one rose

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