2016’s Springtime remains a cruelly inconstant lover, gracing us with its presence one day before ghosting us for a week! On terribly cold afternoons, it can be a difficult exercise in restraint not to order my meals through Seamless or Caviar. The middle ground in all this is to brave the elements and make sure I treat myself to something exceptionally exquisite. Lunch at Narcissa is a sacred, soothing ceremony that firmly justifies any midday excursion!
Connected to the East Village Standard Hotel in Cooper Square, Narcissa dwells in one of those architectural marvels that looks more suited to a work of dystopian fiction than downtown Manhattan, though differences between these two urban models are rapidly fading by the week. The space inside is classy and pretty yet inviting enough not to dissuade a casual diner from entering.
Under the direction of Chef John Fraser, Narcissa follows the popular model of farm-to-table (the farm in this case being The Locusts On Hudson). It takes its name from an actual farm cow rather than the Harry Potter character, and themes its menu around meticulous ingredient selection and delicate cooking methods. The result is a simply dazzling seasonal menu!
I ordered off of the Lunch Prix-Fixe menu, a $28 offering that comes with an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. I expected something good if not a bit on the small side–quality trumps quantity in so many of these places, but I ended up being surprised.
I started with the Citrus-Cured Salmon, served with a bit of bread and frisee salad. It was an incredibly fair portion with crisp vegetables and the two very large salmon slabs were rife with salty goodness, the tangy hint of citrus perking up my taste buds while rounding out the entire appetizer. It was wonderfully refreshing and salty at the same time!
For my main I got the duck schnitzel as I love both duck and schnitzel and had never expected to see them in the same dish. The result was a fantastic marriage of a good crispy breaded exterior and moist, juicy duck leg meat. Beneath it was a pool of golden apricot sauce that mingled with the succulent dark meat. creamy potato salad, and zesty mustard to create a hearty sonata of spring flavors. It was by far the best schnitzel I’ve ever eaten and definitely one of my favorite uses of duck. And I might also add that the amount of duck meat was simply gargantuan. I expect that many of my readers might find two meals in a single entree with this dish, though I could not resist gobbling it all up. Taking it home to microwave later would have been a travesty.
For dessert, I had the Fruit Tart, a saucer of pastry crust filled with sweet cream that tasted like it was sourced from a magical fairy cow, tart muscat grapes, and slices of spiced plum that could only have been grown in a culinary sorceress’ garden. It was a perfect fairytale ending to a magical meal!
On a return visit for dinner, I also sampled the Lacquered Duck Breast, a large, incredibly juicy specimen that was brushed and caked with a mosaic of crackling sea salt and spices. It is creative, exceptional, and worth every cent of its $36 price tag!
I’ll be honest, when I first looked at Narcissa’s decor, its menu, and its prices, I thought I would be dealing with an overpriced, underplated tasting rather than a decadent, imaginative feast, but I was SO SO SO SO wrong! This place is a Michelin-Starred chef’s playground and correspondingly a diner’s dream!
25 Cooper Square
(corner of 5th St and Bowery)
New York, NY 10003
(212) 228 3344
Monday – Friday: 11:30am to 3:00pm
Sunday – Thursday: 5:30pm to 11:00pm
Friday – Saturday: 5:30pm to 12:00am
Saturday – Sunday: 10:30am to 4:00pm
**For the record, I almost called this article “Malfoy’s Mom has Got it Going On!”