Note: Rabbit in the Moon was sold in March 2011, and is now called The State Room.
Rabbit in the Moon is the latest gastropub that hopes to fetishize British food, traditionally the least admired European cuisine.
Like most British pubs, the name of the place is superficially meaningless. It’s supposedly dervied from “an old Chinese fable in which only those who are truly in love can see a rabbit in the moon.”
The chef, Brian Bieler, has worked all over town, at places like Compass, Cafe Luxembourg, Bouley Upstairs, and The Mott. The owners come from STK and the Pink Elephant. They’re not exactly culinary royalty.
Despite that, they are apparently trying to cultivate airs of faux exclusivity. The townhouse it occupies is bedecked in fake ivy, naturally with no sign that would give away any useful information, like the name.
The bi-level space is cozy like an English country inn, with dark wood tables, plush easy chairs, a fireplace, and bars on two levels.
The owners have adopted a much-maligned “no shorts” rule, an odd marketing strategy for 90-degree days in Greenwich Village. A server confirmed the policy’s existence, but couldn’t explain why. The restaurant is not formal in any sense. Jeans and t-shirts are welcome; just not shorts.
Business was brisk, but not full, on a Friday evening. Perhaps the owners should drop their pretended exclusivity, and concentrate on attracting customers.
Ironically, service was over-the-top friendly—practically Danny Meyer-esque. It was if they were eager to demonstrate that, no matter what you read on Eater.com, We Are Nice People Here.
The staff gave me my choice of table; I picked a quiet two-top in a secluded nook at the front of the restaurant, with a window looking out on West 8th Street. Sit here if you can.
The menu is mostly Continental bistro classics, and not terribly expensive, for what you get. Appetizers are $8–18, entrées $17–30. Sides are $7, but unnecessary, as every entrée comes with a vegetable.
I asked the server for recommendations, and he suggested mostly the less expensive items. So I started with the Smoked Spanish Mackerel & Trout Salad ($12; above left). A crispy deep-fried hen-egg was on top: puncture it, and you’ve got instant salad dressing.
The name of the entrée, Fish & Chips ($17; above right), might well have come in quotes, as the “fish” consisted of tempura cod, baby squid, shrimp & octopus, with house-made tartar sauce and excellent fries.
There’s nothing revelatory here, or anything close to that, but it’s perfectly enjoyable pub food. If the owners would stop worrying about people in shorts, they just might build a following.
Rabbit in the Moon (47 W. 8th St. between 5th & 6th Avenues, Greenwich Village)