Entries in Elsewhere (1)



Note: Elsewhere closed in December 2011.


I yawned when I read the publicist-massaged opening press for Elsewhere: “an Eclectic American menu of farm-driven, shareable plates.” As if no one had ever thought of that before.

I’m not sure if the proffer has changed, or if they had a particularly uncreative publicist. Eight months later, none of that seems especially true. There are a few sharable items at the top of the menu, but you don’t build a meal that way, and the restaurant seems no more farm-driven than any other.

Elsewhere is appealing for other, better reasons. It’s owned by the same people as Casellula Cheese & Wine Café, and as you’d expect, both the wine and cheese programs are strong. Chef Megan Johnson’s cuisine is firmly in the American bistro idiom, but it’s a lot less cliché ridden than the press release was. She might not be the first to serve an appetizer of Duck Confit Rillette with Pickled Miso Eggs, or an entrée of Roasted Bone Marrow with French Fries, but at least you don’t see them every day.

Let’s hope they have better luck than the last tenant, Le Madeleine, which was evicted in 2008 after a lengthy court battle. The owner had a “demolition clause,” which allowed him to take back the space if he planned to tear it down. So after 30 years, a popular restaurant was forced out for a demolition that never took place. After being vacant for two years, the building is a restaurant again.

The menu is mid-priced, with snacks (“to share”) mostly $4–10, appetizers $9–14, entrées $16–32, and sides mostly $7–9 (a “5-Spoke Tumbleweed Poutine” is $14).

Cheeses are $6 each, or five for $27. We let the server choose for us, and she came back with a hard blue Dumbarton (above left) that was very good. Chicken Liver Pâté ($14) was unremarkable; I would prefer that it not come pre-spread, as it did here.

Black Bass ($26; above left) was fine, with artichokes, rosted tomatoes, and polenta, but we thought there ought to be less lemon jus: the bass was practically swimming in it. Pork Sausage Meatballs ($24; above right) had a robust, tangy flavor, with egg noodles and mushroom gravy. One might quibble, though, that it comes out to eight dollars a meatball.

We wrapped up with bite-sized chocolate petits fours (left).

The wine list is around 150 bottles, in silly categories like “Pretty Young Things,” “Va-Va-Voom!” and “Do You Feel Lucky?” But there is a good price range, with a few options off the beaten path, and a Vieille Julienne Côtes du Rhône for $56 was one of the better inexpensive Rhones I’ve had in a while.

My one and only visit to Le Madeleine, the previous tenant, was about twenty years ago, but I instantly recognized the space, especially the spectacular garden room with its skylight and decades-old ficus tree. But we were seated in the main dining room, which was awfully loud, with sound ricocheting off of the exposed brick. I thought it would let up after the pre-theater crowd got out, but the restaurant remained nearly full. I have about it with noisy restaurants lately. I would hesitate to return to Elsewhere for that reason alone.

Service was efficient and attentive. I especially appreciated being shown to my table a full twenty minutes ahead of my reservation, before my date had arrived, a courtesy few restaurants extend these days, especially if they are at all busy.

Elsewhere has not had a single professional review that I can find. Perhaps it’s time they hired a new publicist. There is much here that is worth publicizing.

Elsewhere (403 W. 43rd Street, near Ninth Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen)

Food: *
Service: *½
Ambiance: *
Overall: *