After the hustle and bustle of the Fancy Food Show, the Bedfellow and I sought solace in the shadier parts of Greenwich Village, specifically, to visit a new restaurant called Bell, Book, and Candle. If you walk too quickly on West 10th, you might just miss it, as it’s located in the basement of a gorgeous brownstone. Outside of the more adult stores, it’s the best kept secret there. We were invited for dinner, so we decided to put our feet up, relax, and enjoy the evening.
Bell, Book, and Candle, or BB&C as it’s affectionately known, features a special aeroponic garden on the roof, which aptly balances out their basement location. The garden is used throughout the year to supply the freshest of fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits to the restaurant, depending on the season. After all, it doesn’t get more local than seventh floor succotash or rooftop radishes. We poked around the garden just as the sun was setting – the perfect, lush setting to give a new meaning to ‘concrete jungle.’
We started out our meal with fried oysters in a green chile and buttermilk sauce, lobster tacos, and the grilled sausage of the day. Right away, it was obvious that there was a line drawn in the sand, and it sat squarely on the ‘surf’ part of surf and turf. The chef has a light, delicate hand with seafood and vegetables. The fried oysters were charming in their presentation, but unwieldy as there were no indications as to whether one ought to slurp them right from the shell or use a fork to spear them with.
Eating around the potato curls was like performing a delicate bomb-disarming maneuver- one wrong move and your cardigan was covered in crumbs. Still, their flavor was delicious and they were perfectly fried.
Likewise, the execution of the lobster tacos was refreshing. While I always love a fried taco shell, it was fun to try these in a soft shell, as it really showcased the tender texture of the lobster. Braised greens and salsa verde adorned these, bringing a very fresh, minimal element to the bite. I was impressed at how some very distinct flavors – breading, fried potato, and salsa verde in the oysters, and greens, chile-buttermilk sauce, and cheese in the lobster, were tempered down so as to showcase the most of the shellfish.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the sausage. While it was housemade and very tender, the flavors – smoked pork with chipotle and roasted garlic, were muddled together and monolithic, and ended up tasting aggressively, generically spicy. The homemade pickles? Perfect, snappy, fresh. This stark divide in artistry between vegetables or more delicate proteins and heavier fare would follow throughout the entire meal.
With the appetizers, we ran down the cocktail list, starting with the cutely named ‘Dill With It,” with huckleberry vodka, strawberry, cucumber, lemon, dill, vanilla, and cava. Despite the long list of ingredients, the bulk of them shone through and all blended together marvelously. While the vodka and berry flavors were clearly the visual start, the cava, vanilla, and dill shone with each sip. It was like drinking a boozy gazpacho, with marvelous, fresh flavors.
The Bedfellow started with the ‘Soup of the Day’. She is remarkably discerning when it comes to her favorite drink, the dirty martini, and was dubious of its inclusion of vodka versus gin, but pronounced the drink palatable and pleasantly boozy and enjoyed the blue cheese olives as a snack after the drink was finished.
We chose the ‘gin and tonic’ salmon as an entrée, along with the hangar steak, cooked rare. Despite having ordered salmon in restaurants before, this was one of the few times when I was asked how I wanted it cooked. I appreciated that. I typically prefer my salmon as rare as my steak, but as I was sharing it, we went for medium-rare. It was cooked perfectly. The lime emulsion on the side was transcendent, and transported me back to La Biggarade in Paris, with the carefully separated pods of citrus fruit in a light, creamy sauce. Everything about the salmon was impeccable, from the balance of the smoky, grilled elements of the fish to the light vegetables and citrus. However, the element of ‘gin and tonic’ was lost on me, save the lime garnish, although I did appreciate the effort.
The hangar steak was also cooked en pointe, but the rich flavors – bleu cheese, onion marmalade, and steak sauce, overwhelmed each other, each fighting for top billing on the palate. As protein-avaricious as I am, I found myself craving more fresh vegetables to better distribute the umami of all the other elements, as the braised greens fell to the wayside. The Laguiole knife was an attractive touch.
Alongside were fries – tasty and fresh, though minimally seasoned. We were finishing up our second cocktails as we munched on them- the ‘grill on grill’ for me, with grilled pineapple, tequila, chartreuse, lime, agave, and cilantro, and the ‘city sage’ for the Bedfellow, with bourbon, sage, honey, aperol, and lime.
Each masterfully carried the same properties as the last – the secondary mixing components came through, with the chartreuse and cilantro strongest in mine, and the lime and sage in the Bedfellow’s. I found myself wishing for more of a charred flavor with the pineapple, as the word ‘grill’ or some iteration of it was featured three times in the description.
We later switched to a 2009 Don and Sons Pinot Noir from Sonoma County with the steak – a perfect, classic pairing. For dessert, we shared a glass of the Pindar late-harvest Riesling from 2008, which went impeccably with the fruity desserts before we took our trip to the garden above
– your sneak peek is shown here.
Our server recommended the brown bag peach crisp with crème fraiche ice cream, and we chose to share the banana and toasted almond bread pudding as well. The latter was very dense, a hybrid of a classic banana quickbread with an eggy, dense center.
Both desserts were fresh and succulent, in particular, the crème fraiche ice cream, which, with a little sea salt, could have been a separate dessert in it of itself.
The garden speaks for itself, and the touch of its delicate bounty is suffused throughout many aspects of the meal. We left feeling refreshed, energized, stuffed to the brims, and ready to take on the trip home. With a little tightening of the richer dishes, or more emphasis on lighter fare, Bell, Book, and Candle could become a regular stop for us, and hopefully many New Yorkers.