Last night I had the absolute pleasure of dining at Alison Eighteen in the Flatiron District. With a double date on my social calendar I chose Alison Eighteen for its opening buzz on the various food blogs I read and recent one star review in the New York Times (good one star review).
Apparently the owner Alison Becker has been absent for the better part of ten years from the New York dining scene as her first restaurant, Alison on Dominick closed in 2002. Having only been privy to the scene for the past five years I could only imagine what has changed since she served her last meal. But Alison and her new restaurant did not skip a beat; this American brasserie goes toe to toe with beloved neighborhood “fine dining” spots like Craft, ABC Kitchen, and Aldea.
Our coats were taken and we were escorted to the back dining room (the front area houses a bar and kiosk area where you can take pastries to go in the morning) where we were sat just off the center of the dining room. We sat amongst older gentleman in blazers, thirty something women in rainy day chic, and a surprisingly quiet private party set square in the middle of the dining room celebrating something from the Tribeca Film Festival (famed Ghostbusters I & II and Kindergarten Cop Director Ivan Reitman sat across the aisle from me). It’s understated elegance brings a more mature set, in that this is the kind of place you go for a double date, quiet meal with friends or where you, your girlfriend/boyfriend and parents go for a meal.
My breath was nearly taken away as I looked closely at the charming décor of the dining room. It is fabulous; English countryside meets The Velveteen Rabbit/Winnie the Pooh. My interior decorator friend and I marveled at the classic elegance of the room with its beautiful wall paper made just for the restaurant (try to find the dog reading Page 6!), rich dark wood tables, plush banquettes, and soft illuminating light descending from the four large chandeliers above.
The menu is simple and seasonal, covering every base. Choose from eight appetizers like blue prawns a la plancha to seared foie gras and polenta with foraged mushrooms, to twelve entrees such as spit roasted chicken, black bass, and mustard pappardelle with braised rabbit. While everything on the menu titillated my taste buds, I went with a chilled pea soup with pistachios and a poached halibut with fennel marmalade, blood orange and capers. All of the dishes we chose had an elegant simplicity to them and tickled each taste bud…. there was not a drop of food left on any of our plates.
The service is attentive yet surprisingly unpretentious as the staff is adorned in white coats and neckties. Our every need was taken care of, and our sparkling water glasses were never empty. I cannot say anything negative about Alison Eighteen; I had a lovely evening gabbing with my friends and even got a chance to chat privately with the lovely owner (Alison) and talk a little shop. I only wish I lived in the Flatiron so I could grab a morning pastry and coffee every morning and I simply cannot wait to go back. While I had never been to the first Alison, I have to say…WELCOME BACK!
15 West 18th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)