508 Restaurant is in that out-of-the-way district that some call West Soho or Hudson Square. Destination dining hasn’t proven itself here. The places that succeed are those that attract a repeatable neighborhood crowd.
Maybe we need a new term for restaurants like 508: “neighborhood-plus.” The economics of West Soho are what they are, but the food here is a lot better than you’d expect for a local place. The restaurant has been open for just over a year, and the owners are now trying to raise its profile, hence the publicist’s invitation to dine here on a recent Friday evening.
The chefs, husband and wife Jennifer Sant’anna Hill and Anderson Sant’anna De Lima, have restaurants like Lupa, Del Posto, and Aquavit on their resumes. Jennifer’s father and mother, Fred and Lynn Fisher Hill, both retired lawyers, are co-owners. Fred also serves as wine director.
The menu is loosely described as Rustic Mediterranean. (Click on the image for a larger copy.) That strategy plays out in a long list of tapas qua appetizers and as many pastas as entrées. There is also the obligatory Pat LaFreida burger and barbecue spare ribs. I am not sure which Mediterranean country they come from.
I am told that everything is made in-house, except for the ice cream.
If you’re tempted to order three savory courses, as you would in an Italian restaurant, you’ll need to be hungry. The pastas are entrée size, and they’re excellent. If Andrew Carmellini served them at Locanda Verde, he’d be hailed as a genius. Come to think of it, he’s been hailed already.
The mains are arguably a bit expensive, with most of them $25 and over, but the portions are enormous, and they are quite good indeed. We were less impressed with the two tapas we tried.
Ham and Manchego Croquettes ($10; above left) left a curiously flat impression. Truffled Mac and Cheese ($14; above right) was good enough, but probably not worth the fifteen-minute wait for it to be made to order.
Spinach and egg fettuccini ($19; above left) came piled with roasted duck and skin cracklings, pine nuts, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and pancetta. Gnocchi ($18; above right) might be the lightest in town, as they’re made from celery root rather than potatoes, and served with lamb, Italian sausage, mushrooms, smoked tomatoes, and sage, in a creamy parmesan sauce.
It is not often that you find so many ingredients in a pasta dish, and yet find that all of them make a distinct impression. These are among the best pastas we’ve had all year.
The Beef Long Rib ($28; above left) should be on many more menus. It is basically a whole short rib on the bone in a red wine-cranberry braise, with corn pudding and a terrific sautéed broccoli rabe. It takes guts to serve Miso Glazed Black Sea Bass ($26; above right) on a cuttlefish ink lemon risotto, but these chefs pulled it off.
The wine list has 30 bottles priced between $30 and $50, although the top end goes up to $300. I am not sure who will be spending that kind of money on this food, but it never hurts to have the option. Wine choices by the glass are ample, with a dozen reds and a dozen whites. There are 25 beers and also a very good sangria.
The space seats 60, including a small lounge up-front and a 12-seat communal table near the open kitchen at the back. The exposed brick walls are decorated with wine bottles and knick-nacks. We weren’t there as civilians, but service seemed to be attentive at all of the other tables I could see.
With its marketing position as a “neighborhood joint,” the owners here are being careful not to portray 508 as anything more than what it is. But even if you go out of your way to get there, 508 is more than good enough to justify the effort.
508 Restaurant & Bar (508 Greenwich Street near Spring Street, West Soho)