Calliope, You Tug My Heart Strings
I heard good things. I read great things. I ate splendiferous things.
I almost want to keep my head down and reap the benefits of a restaurant that is 1) fabulous, 2) near my apartment, and 3) not crammed every night…but I can’t. I believe in giving praise when it is due, and married co-chefs Ginevra Iverson and Eric Korsch are doing such a good job that I can’t keep quiet. I’m compelled to scream it: CALLIOPE IS A NEW FAVORITE. It goes on the list of ones I will visit again and again.
Inside Calliope looks like a traditional French bistro. Though clearly none of the décor is original, it’s a warm glowing bud in the East Village. But while the atmosphere is timeless, the food has an audacity that’s hard to explain: it doesn’t feel as classic as it promises to be. Spicy marinated mackerel with avocado, black sesame and scallions is certainly not a flavor profile I’d expect in a traditional bistro. There’s a cosmopolitan flare to the simultaneously approachable food. Fantastically fresh tasting sea urchin on charred toast, barely seasoned and drizzled with olive oil is effortlessly alluring and sexy, like Jean Seberg in Un Bout de Souffle. Then the menu offers up the most traditional dish: eggs mayonnaisse, garnished with chives, tarragon and house-made celery salt to kick off the meal.
Nantucket bay scallop crudo with seasonal citrus and arbequina olive oil is deftly simple, letting the ingredients shine. The exquisitely thin slices of beef tongue with sweet white onions and mâche were astutely complimented by the acidic, creamy and crave-worthy sauce gribiche, a French sauce of egg yolk, oil, cornichons, capers and herbs.
When it was time for our entrées, my expectations were high. A brothy bowl of hot and sour braised lamb necks that melted on my tongue with marscapone-filled agnolloti rafts was astounding. Rabbit peppardelle was sumptuous and warming. Co-Chef Eric Korsch once said that the most important respect of creating a dish is a balance of acid and fat, and Calliope’s food reflects that paradigm.
Calliope might be the East Village equivalent of staid staple Café Cluny, except for one thing: the food is so much better. For its unpretentious atmosphere, sublime service and most importantly the surprising, carefully made, extremely delicious food, Calliope is the first restaurant I will recommend to anyone looking for an excellent meal in a lovely atmosphere. Run, don’t walk.
84 E 4th St (corner of 2nd Avenue)
New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 260-8484
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