“What is the point of travel, if it doesn’t offer the occasion to gather old friends and new around a heavily laden table?” said nobody ever, but they should have. Our most recent trip to New York, presented us with the chance to renew friendships and forge new ones, while breaking mighty fine bread – mostly in the West Village. And one of our favorite dining experiences was at Bell, Book and Candle on West 10th.
A basement joint, BBC links together a series of rooms that almost feel like individual restaurants – from the brick cellar-like tavern up front to a modern, booth-filled back-room complete with skylights and big art.
Known for its “roof-to-table” cuisine – BBC boasts a roof-top organic garden (I can’t vouch for the produce being pollution-free). This is definitely a great place to eat with a group so you can try out as many items on the menu as possible. From burrata to beef, grilled lamp chops to grilled cheese, and oysters to onion soup, there is a dazzling array of dishes to choose from. Luckily, with six in our party, including two tweens with adventurous palates, we got to sample much of what was on offer.
The younger members of our party immediately ordered the crispy fried oysters with green chile buttermilk dressing ($12). The bright green purée was super fresh tasting and a nice balance to the saltiness of the oysters. The crispy roasted jalapeño deviled eggs ($8), crunchy yet creamy, drew oohs and aahs and quickly vanished. The soft warms rolls were served with a satisfying slab of ice-cold unsalted butter. (By the way, I truly believe that great quality butter tells you a lot about the chef’s attitude to selecting ingredients. After all, it’s typically the only unadulterated item on the table.)
The house-made burrata ($12), served with perfectly cooked acorn squash, made us remember what it was like to fall in love. It was so lusciously creamy, you just kept on wanting more and more… and more. The drunken bean dip ($8) appeared to fall victim to a magician’s trick – it went so fast. The Brussel sprouts salad, a special for the evening, came with a clean, herby ricotta. The only mild disappointment was the crisp pork belly and rooftop arugula ($12). I kept hoping to discover the crispy part and not finding it. Done right, pork belly is insanely rich, while being meaty, a tiny bit salty and having a satisfying crunch. This version didn’t quite hit the mark.
We ordered five main dishes, which turned out to be plenty of food. The skin on the herb roasted half chicken ($24) was cooked to a tee – crunchy, salty, herby – while the flesh itself was tender and juicy. The braised short ribs ($28), a hugely generous portion, came off the bone and were flaky and falling apart, as they should be. A special for the evening – roast suckling pig with crackling – was also a hit. This time the pig skin was perfect – offering a great snap and crackle when you bit into it. The BBC burger – “patty melt”-style – came between two pieces of sliced bread, caramelized onions and cheddar ($14) – and while it didn’t particularly look appetizing, was soon scarfed down.
Spice-rubbed yellow fin tuna ($28) served with French lentils—another hugely generous plateful—was the only thing that wasn’t a hit, but we were all full to the brim by this stage, so perhaps that was why. Or perhaps the Japanese are on to something when they serve tuna in small delicate bite-sizes. It can be overwhelming in large doses.
Overall, the menu has a heavy quotient of comfort food like grilled cheeses, raclette, patty-melts, hearty meats, etc, and if you’re a fan of crunch, fat and salt – and really, who isn’t? – then this place will satisfy your soul. We all passed on the desserts, except for the tweens who were thrilled to get around the ‘choose soda or dessert’ rule by ordering root beer floats, and guzzling them down so fast that nausea ensued. Kids today. No moderation.
All in all, BBC gave us a spectacular meal with great service. We ordered two bottles of Pinot Noir – a rather too-young one and a slightly heavily, more mature one, both from Oregon – and a couple of extra glasses of white. Including tip, the bill came to about $450 for six. Not too shabby for the West Village and considering the quality of the food, great value. Be sure to visit next time you’re in the Big Apple.
Reservations can be made here and should be made immediately.