Upon scooping up the last bits of an insanely gorgeous rhubarb-meringue dessert at Public on Friday night, I realized somewhat ashamedly that I have never given Public enough credit. Maybe because I lived on Elizabeth St for years I took Public’s stylish, upscale presence for granted. Maybe because the cocktails are so good there I rarely made it to the dinner portion of the evening (you have to try their guava and red chile margarita to truly understand the circumstance). Or, and perhaps most likely, maybe my dark, deep-seated fear of really well-designed restaurants that lure you in only to disappoint with mediocre food made me neglectful of an absolutely fantastic spot.
What contributed to my change of taste? Or rather, who? Well, actually, one of the owners did. Good karma (or Matt B., my wonderful and well-connected friend) was on my side when I slid into the seat directly across from Adam Farmerie, an immensely talented (and refreshingly unpretentious) principal of design firm AvroKo and brother to Public’s chef, Brad. Listen, I know what you’re thinking. I dined as a guest of an owner so OBVIOUSLY I’m going to tout the food and gush all over the place. Well, yes. But if the food sucked or was even mediocre, I wouldn’t say anything at all.
Here’s what stood out: ethereally light fried oysters with a wasabi-yuzu dipping sauce, seared foie served on a little french toast point with bits of bacon, venison served atop yummy falafel, barramundi (oh why don’t I eat this fish more), snail and oxtail raviolis, pork loin, six different homemade sorbets whose colors ran straight out of a Crayola box, gold-star worthy sticky toffee pudding, and, OH, that rhubarb-meringue thing that’s new.
I wish I had better descriptions, but you see I haven’t yet covered the things imbibed. It started with a bracing glass of Verdejo, moving onto a crisp glass of bubbles (name not remembered), to an absolutely mind-blowing Gewurztraminer that reminded me yes, I can appreciate a slightly sweet white as long as it has enough complexity to hold my attention, to a bottle of Reisling and finishing with Adam’s home-made chili-spiked Limoncello. So I apologize my descriptions aren’t more articulate.
Public’s food inspires but it also makes you think about the fun of food, of creating new flavors no one else has thought of yet, and rouses you to rethink classics in modern ways. The space (huge, airy, clean, city-office chic meets huge, rustic, garage cool) is beautiful- and I embraced that belief from the first moment I stepped foot in the space, five years ago with my mother when I had just moved to Elizabeth St and wanted to celebrate a new chapter of my life.
So here’s my Public service announcement: I recommend Public for those who love adventurous food, those who want to take someone on a sexy date, those who want to impress friends with a sophisticated dinner but wants to have fun all the same, those who want a little style on the table. I don’t recommend it for peeps in the mood for $12 pasta or roast chicken (although you can still go to the bar and enjoy the cocktails).
Of note: there’s a really cool adjoining wine bar called the Monday Room (that’s where I had my Verdejo). And this sounds great: a Sunday Supper ($50 for five courses) where the kitchen comes up with whatever they want- it changes every week. It’s your chance to experiment with the kitchen, yahoo!
Public, 210 Elizabeth St bet Spring and Prince Sts. 212.343.7011. For more info/menus, visit the website here.