It’s strange how some restaurants manage to remain under the radar these days. You’d think what with twitter, facebook, food magazines, newspapers, and a billion food blogs that it would be next to impossible. You can find a quick blurb about the opening of Zoe on Grub Street as well as a restaurant listing on Metromix, but there should be much more buzz around this newcomer. Zoe opened on the Lower East Side in August in the former Satsko space. The room is newly and minimally outfitted in modern Danish trimmings with unique accents, like a church pew (shipped from North Carolina) along the back wall of the dining room. Though the restaurant only opened recently, it seems like the kind of neighborhood spot that’s been around for years.
That is, except for the food, which is innovative American with lots of international influences, like stuffed cabbage soup and tongue tacos on homemade corn tortillas. Zoe Feigenbaum served as the executive chef at The National for over two years before leaving to open a restaurant of her own. The kitchen produces a beautifully grilled whole fish stuffed with a fistful of thyme and scattered with pickled grapes as well as a wonderfully unctous bowl of bucatini, punctuated by black pepper and uni. I highly recommend an appetizer of lamb breast and lamb ribs, which is more like lamb three ways, mingled with soubise — code for bechamel and caramelized onions — and pickled cherry tomatoes.
But my favorite dish was the grilled octopus with green olives, homemade labne (yogurt) and harissa. As anyone who’s fond of octopus knows, it’s not the easiest thing to perfect. Zoe’s version is really one of the best I’ve had in years. Maybe it’s because she boils the octopus in red wine, before marinating it in olive oil that her own very mother makes in Italy (see photo). Then, she serves it with a homespun yogurt, harissa, and green olives. She also works her mom’s olive oil into eggplant parmesan wtih smoked gouda and parmesan. Zoe just recently opened for brunch, too.
Address: 245 Eldridge Street
Phone: (212) 559-5962