Restaurant Review: A sparkling delight from the perfect raw bar

The best way to get a reward is the ninety-eight dollar Ice Box Plus, Penny’s version of a seafood platter. It’s a superbly arranged, beautifully draped tray that on my visits carried brawny oysters, chubby smoked clams, tiny cockles (a type of snail), a huge mound of lightly dressed heron crab, slippery sweet scallops crudo and a tangle of bright pink cocktail shrimp with entwined tails . Most exciting among the gems are two shot-sized portions of vichyssoise (chilled potato and leek soup), upon arrival topped with voluptuous portions of caviar, green-gold and sublime, that glide almost seductively beneath the opaque surface. soup. It’s not cheap food by any means, but it’s the kind of thing that makes money feel well spent.

Two modestly hungry people would be very happy to make a meal out of the Ice Box Plus. (A smaller, cheaper option, the Ice Box, omits some of the more extravagant elements.) Order a skin-friendly bottle of Spanish white alongside, or perhaps splurge on a deep cut from the wine list’s imaginative collection of white wines. Burgundy. You can throw in a bowl of flame-pink tuna carpaccio, drizzled with olive oil and bay leaf vinegar and enlivened with bits of cipollini onion and crushed green olives, or clams that are chopped raw and tossed. green giardiniera with oregano flecked celery. (Much to my delight, celery seems to be a secret theme on Penny’s menu, not only threatening the clams, but rustling the mignonette that comes alongside the oysters in a whispery, watery, bittersweet note. And the only soda on offer is Cel-Ray from Dr .Brown.) Top it all off with a tiny, freshly baked loaf of buttered brioche, perfect for soaking up any lingering sauce or oil deposits. (The bread also appears on the short dessert menu, cut into thicker slices and sandwiched with a scoop of vanilla ice cream plus a jam dip.)

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With Claude, Pinsky demonstrated the ability to apply heat to sea creatures. His view of Spanish gambas al ajillo— in which a pile of sweet red shrimp is tossed raw into a serving bowl that is slathered in a sizzling garlicky olive oil that barely cooks them — is downright fantastic. At Penny, that all-seafood conceit gives him even more room to explore. Oysters are confit in chicken fat until sumptuously rich and served with spiced Club crackers and a dollop of crème fraîche. Octopus stuffed with tuna and Swiss chard is charred to a delicate, almost caramel sweetness. Her smoky, paprika-laden harissa sauce—a shocking red in the cool-toned room—abounds on the plate with all the elemental intensity of blood. The Dover sole comes in a thick piece, with the ribs intact, topped with wobbly bits of bone marrow and drizzled with Bordelaise sauce – a normally finicky fish cleverly rendered as a petite carnivorous feast. I apologize to the lobster who was looking for liberation. It was (or maybe it was his brother) delicious, poached in a court broth, dressed in a brown-butter vinaigrette and served in chunks, arranged around an aromatic bundle of fresh sage and rosemary. It’s easy food, in every sense of the word.

Penny takes reservations, but has a fair amount of space for walk-ins, giving the well-organized operation a sparkling edge of spontaneity. (When I made a reservation and had to cancel one day before the meal, the restaurant charged me a hefty cancellation fee—perhaps a first in my significant experience using Resa.) It might be tempting to try an appetizer at Penny and end the evening down at Claude’s, but it would be a miracle to get to both on the same evening – and most of all, why would you want to leave? Just as Claud has his delicious dessert—a huge slice of nighttime dark chocolate cake—so does Penny. It’s a neat serving of chocolate mousse, drizzled with grass-fed olive oil and crowned with hazelnuts. Made from a carefully calibrated blend of dark and milk chocolate, it’s dense and smooth, deep and sweet, a plate of pure, relaxed luxury. ♦

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