On a Sunday night in October, a friend and I looked in on The Red Cat. The restaurant can thank Frank Bruni, because without his June review I would most likely have overlooked it. Things were only just warming up when we arrived at 6:00, but the restaurant was full by the time we left at 7:30 or so.
Full marks go to an appetizer Bruni didn’t mention: tempura of bacon, a wonderful if peculiar dish that’s exactly what it sounds like. We both had the suckling pig entrée (served only on Sundays), which Bruni mentioned near the end of his review. It was served “pulled pork style” on a bed of spicy, but slightly watery, vegetables and corn bread.
The restaurant is to be commended for offering a reasonable selection of half-bottles of wine. When they were out of the $30 cabernet I wanted, they recommended a sensible alternative that was actually $3 cheaper.
My friend doesn’t follow the NYC food scene, but when I mentioned the minor controversy surrounding Bruni’s review, she instinctively agreed with me. The Red Cat is a “best-of-the-neighborhood” kind of restaurant, precisely the type that deserved one star — as The Red Cat in fact received when William Grimes originally reviewed it for the Times.
It is no insult for this type of restaurant to receive one star: indeed, the meaning of one star is “good.” The Red Cat is a good restaurant. We had a wonderful time and would happily go again. But for The Red Cat to receive two stars, a level carried by such restaurants as Annisa, David Burke & Donatella, Montrachet, and Café Gray, is overly generous.
The Red Cat (227 Tenth Avenue between 23rd–24th Streets, West Chelsea)