Entries in Knife+Fork (3)


R.I.P. Knife + Fork

Update: Knife + Fork re-opened as Percy’s Tavern Knife + Fork in September 2010, three months after it closed. They are now located at 210 Avenue A (13th Street).


Knife + Fork in the East Village closed after service on Saturday evening.

After both of my visits (here, here), I was impressed with the quality and ambition of the food at a modest price-point. But it’s telling that after four years in business, the tasting menu was still just $45. The chef, Damien Bressel, would surely have raised it if he could.

The last time I was there, nine months ago, the dining room was nearly empty on a Wednesday evening, and Bressel was doubling as server and host (in addition to chef), as his only waiter had called in sick.

It seemed a bit sad even then, but somehow he hung on before finally throwing in the towel. We look forward to his next project.


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: **


Knife + Fork

Note: Click here for a more recent review of Knife + Fork.

The new restaurant Knife + Fork (spelled thus) has attracted a lot of attention lately. Andrea Strong gave it a great review in late July, and it was the recipient of a somewhat longer-than-usual blog post by Frank Bruni a few days later.

Knife + Fork turns out food of unusual ambition for its neighborhood. It’s a small space in the East Village, owned and operated by chef Damien Brassel and his wife. The six-course tasting menu for just $45 puts the shame to other restaurants’ offerings at double the price. Although Bruni complained about the over-use of truffle oil (something we did not notice) he added, “I’m hard pressed to think of another restaurant in New York that packs as much ambition into a price that restrained.” He clearly liked the place, as he mentioned having paid several visits. I suspect he’s going to give Knife + Fork time to shake out the kinks before considering a formal review in the newspaper.

We weren’t in a tasting-menu mood, but our selections from the à la carte menu convinced us that Brassel is doing great things. The amuse was a shot of clear, hot tomato soup. Seared foie gras sent me into orbit, and it was about double the portion size that many restaurants serve. My friend had a warm goat cheese and polenta appetizer that she pronounced amazing. I found a Mahi Mahi entrée a bit stringy, although I enjoyed the crisp skin. I’m not sure whether it was entirely the chef’s fault. I would have preferred a regular knife to cut it with; fish knives are always a burden, except with the most pliant flesh. My friend found lamb loin almost revelatory. Platings were all attractive and creative.

With starters all $15 or less, and mains $25 or less, Knife + Fork delivers an outstanding value. Because it is near a school, there is no hard liquor license, but they do serve wine. Actually, the establishment bills itself as a “restaurant and wine bar.” The list is very reasonably priced, with about a dozen choices by the glass.

Brassel and his wife are practically a two-man band. Brassel does all the cooking. His wife and one waitress do all the serving. Another hand in the kitchen washes dishes and does light prep work. I didn’t do an exact count, but it looks to me like the restaurant can seat about 30–35 people. When it starts to fill up—as it’s doing more and more, as the word gets out—Brassel has trouble keeping up. We were there at a slow time, but we can well imagine what happens on Saturday nights. His wife mentioned that he’s considering adding another hand in the kitchen, although one look at the space tells you that it will need to be someone who’s used to working in close quarters.

I’ll look forward to giving Knife + Fork another try.

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

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