228 Bleecker St.
(bet. Sixth Avenue & Carmine St),
dinner, lunch, brunch
Dishes range from $8-$19
Chef Gavin Citron, at right, in the kitchen
Layers and flavors with an accent on organic
Three or four dishes and dessert
By Frank Angelino
Citron, at heart, is center stage for the talents of its owner-chef Gavin Citron. Found nightly assiduously working the stove at the open kitchen in the rear of the compact eatery, Citron is a true working chef. He leaves the service and hospitality to his staff; the food is his exclusive domain.
While the Bleecker Street location, facing Fr. Demo Square, for years past had been a neighborhood espresso hangout and later an Italian restaurant, Citrons cooking is very much contemporary American. He has a prestigious cooking pedigree having cooked at a number of cutting edge restaurants in the city.
Our waitperson elaborated the ground rules once we were comfortably seated: All of our dishes are medium sized. Its all about layers and flavors of food. The emphasis is organic. Most diners have three or four dishes and dessert.
Diners are urged by the wait staff to pair each dish with an optional wine, beer, or sake. There is an all American wine list, many from small vineyards. For instance, with our short rib dish described below, came a Buena Vista Pinot Noir that complemented the hearty dish well.
Citrons 45-seat dining room is square-shaped, minimalist and relaxed; details are well thought out. The bathrooms are illuminated with candles. Hospitality is immediate upon entering. The pale green walls, ash-grey banquettes, and ebony wood floors, were inspired by Minna Citron, Gavins grandmother, a noted mid-20th century abstract artist. Citrons father was the radio personality, Casper Citron.
The chef has turned his own training in the fine arts into a skill which enables him to prepare and plate his food in an artistic manner. In a relatively short time Citron has honed his craft in a number of New York restaurants: Petrossian, Jo-JO, Luxe, Aja, Celadon, and Aleutia on the way to opening up his own place last year, which he appropriately named Citron.
It appears that Citron seeks out quality artisanal foods like the Humboldt Fog goat cheese that he makes as an appetizer sandwiched between ruby red and golden beet noodles. The creamy, earthy taste of the American made chevre which gets its name from its white, ash dusted, fog-like rind, is a soothing contrast to the noodles.
The food they serve from Citrons kitchen runs the like of a wild mushroom effeuillage which is arrayed with spicy toasted pumpkin seeds and a truffle jus that was a little too elusive for my taste; I enjoyed the dish immensely.
A lobster risotto is enlivened with nubs of juicy corn kernels. This is a rich dish and the young corn kernels add a sweet cool note.
Short ribs, were a perfect match to stand up to this winters frigid weather. They come with exquisite ginger-spiked butternut squash and thin circles of cornmeal coated onion rings.
Succulent duck is served with a wonderful stuffing of chestnuts and an oyster in a shell.
Citron has equally interesting dishes on its weekend brunch menu, such as: lobster potato hash; crème brulee French toast with orange confit and Kentucky bourbon maple syrup; salmon gravlax with caviar caper dressing; and grilled scallop burger with pancetta, avocado and chipolte dressing.
Lunch has some of the same items as brunch along with jumbo lump crab cakes, root vegetable slaw and habanera lime emulsion and pulled pork sandwich on a toasted parmesan potato rolls.
Desserts are on a creative par as the rest of the food.