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Knife + Fork

Note: Knife + Fork closed in late 2010 after a brief, ill-fated re-boot on Avenue A.

I had dinner at Knife + Fork about three years ago, and thought, “I really like this place.” Unfortunately, when a restaurant isn’t in my neighborhood, it takes me a really long time to get back.

I finally returned last week, to find that Knife + Fork is just as good as I remembered it. The background is in my original review, and I won’t repeat all of it. Prices are still quite reasonable for the quality, with appetizers topping out at $16 and entrées at $26. There’s a $24 prix fixe, and the six-course tasting menu remains $45. Small plates at the bar are just $8, or you can enjoy wines by the glass and snack on a gratis bowl of mixed olives.

There is no hard liquor license, as a school is nearby, but there are plenty of bottles in the $20s, $30s and $40s, and an ample selection by the glass, priced at $9–14.

On the night we visited, Chef Damien Bressel was a one-man band, as his wife was out of town and the waiter had called in sick. At least his prep guy was there, but Bressel was greeting customers, waiting tables, and cooking the food without help. He seemed preternaturally calm about doing three jobs at once, and gave better service than many waiters who have nothing more to do. To be fair, we were there quite early, and there were not many customers on a Wednesday evening.

To start, I ordered the Carrot Risotto with ginger purée, topped with a wild chervil salad (above left). My friend had the Foie Gras Torchon (above right).

For the main course, I had the Salmon (above left), my friend the Duck (above right). We didn’t taste each other’s dishes, but mine were both terrific. It’s not easy to make routine dishes like risotto and salmon stand out on a prix fixe menu, but Bressel pulled it off.

For dessert, crème brûlée was more pedestrian—nothing wrong with it, but not memorable either. Bressel comped a separate order of it for my friend. (He hadn’t ordered the prix fixe, and would normally have had to pay an extra $8 for it.)

It’s no small accomplishment to keep a “mom & pop” restaurant in business after three years. The accolades haven’t exactly poured in (the Times never reviewed it), but there must at least be a local following. Knife + Fork deserves wider exposure than that. The impressive food and the charming atmosphere remain compelling draws.

Knife + Fork (108 E. 4th St. between First & Second Avenues, East Village)

Food: **
Service: **
Ambiance: **
Overall: **

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