We heart pree fee

Last night, we had one of the best meals we’ve ever had together at Chestnut, a little neighborhood restaurant on Smith Street. Chestnut is normally on the higher end, but for some glorious reason, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays they offer a $25 prix fixe menu. Any appetizer, any entrée, and any dessert. If you take a quick glance at the menu, that’s like at least $40 worth of food. And, as we soon found out, REALLY AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS food. I’m really still daydreaming about the tastes and textures sitting here at work the next day (so much so that I felt compelled to stop what I was doing to get it all into words).

The restaurant is small and cozy, with minimal art on the walls and light wood tables. Everyone, from the bartender to the waitstaff, is superfriendly and warm. We got a good vibe from the moment we walked in.

The cocktails:
Jeff started off with an Oktoberfest beer; I had a glass of Chardonnay. Soon, the waiter brought out a plate of house-made foccacia, oatmeal raisin bread, and pickles with a light, fruity olive oil. Everything tasted fresh and yummy, like it was made and served with warmth and care (are you reading, Franny’s?).

The apps:
Oh, the apps. Oh my, the apps. Jeff ordered the gnocci with mushrooms and some kind of porkish tasting product that we didn’t recognize on the menu. Each piece of gnocci was perfectly browned, and the plate was a collection of one delicious morsel after the next—earthy mushrooms, salty, chewy (insert pork product of your choice), perfectly al-dente gnocci…Jeff and I ate them piece by piece to savor each bite.

I ordered, on the waiter’s suggestion, the haystack shrimp with cilantro puree. I was presented with five plump shrimp wrapped in delicate layers of potato, then fried to the lightest crisp. The waiter told me it would look like shrimp covered in shredded wheat, and the man didn’t lie. The potato covering was amazingly light and crunchy, and gave way to a delicious, huge shrimp. The dipping sauce was good, too, but wasn’t even necessary.

The Entrée:
Jeff ordered pork wrapped in bacon with a corn and zucchini pudding. The pork was cooked to what seemed like just one notch up from rare, and was tender and rich. The bacon wrapped around was perfectly cooked. Not only did it add the perfect bacon zing to the porky wonderfulness, but also a crispy coat that made for textural fun. The corn and zucchini pudding—the two veggies whipped up with what I assume was a truckload of butter—tasted as good as it sounds.

I ordered the skate with wax beans, roasted cauliflower, and caper puree. Several months ago, Jeff, his mom, and I were walking down the Coney Island boardwalk and happened upon a man pulling the ugliest thing we had ever seen out of the water on his fishing line. I asked what it was, and (after seeming put out – he was so grumpy grumperson!) he told me it was a skate. Since then, we’ve all been curious about the taste of skate.
Well, skate is like no fish I’ve tasted before. It was very…fleshy, I guess? The fish was very soft and plush, almost. Jeff thought it had a slight fruity taste. It definitely didn’t taste fishy, but it didn’t really have a strong other flavor, like salmon and tuna do. It was fun to try, and the cauliflower served with it was roasted to the point where it almost tasted like candy – sweet, crunchy, mmm.

The Dessert:
It’s a bit ridiculous to close your eyes in a moment of reverence for food, but Chesnut’s budino made me not give a damn about anything else. I wouldn’t know because my eyes were closed, but I’m assuming Jeff’s reaction was the same.

We decided to splurge and order dessert wines, because that’s our latest “thing” – since Babbo, we’ve developed a small obsession with Muscato wines and other sweet Rieslings. We ordered one of each. Then, we selected the trio of house-made ice creams (pumpkin, oatmeal, and vanilla) with shortbread cookies, and the mysterious “budino.” “What is it?” we wondered. Who cares? We knew at that point it would be good. Chestnut had our trust.

The ice creams were classic and lovely, with their perfect buttery shortbread accompaniment. But the budino…good lord. It was shaped like a chocolate cake flan, sitting in a pool of caramel, served with a sharp cookie poking out. It tasted like soft, molten dark chocolate – very warm, with the texture of the softest brownie but a give like thick pudding. We regretted later that we hadn’t saved more of the ice cream to double dip our spoon into each at the same time. The rich, soft, warm chocolate with sweet, burnt caramel with the classic vanilla was divine.

Chestnut had us aglow all night. What a lovely meal and a lovely restaurant. For literally $20 more than Franny’s, we had a drawn out dining experience with tons of sublime food and four generous cocktails.

And we may be back soon. Sitting on Chestnut’s bar was a ginormous pumpkin. Tucked inside of our bill folder was a slip of paper asking us to guess its weight. The winner will receive a free dinner for two. Cross your fingers for the luck of the 34…we guessed 102, the closest multiple that seemed plausible (the pumpkin was really effing big). I’m guessing we’ll be back very soon, whether or not we win. Next Tuesday, anyone?

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