To some people food is just merely for survival. A means to an end, that allows them to continue doing the things they love to do. These are the people that can’t wait for science to create meal pills that will make eating as easy as taking vitamins in the morning. I am not one of those people. I literally work my 9-5 to be able to seek out fare that makes my endorphins hum like a finely tuned American V-8.
This blog usually focuses on establishments that serve inspiring food at reasonable prices. However, sometimes I am forced to leave my wallet’s comfort zone, on special occasions, in order to experience food that is transcendent. Food that one usually only gets to see on Netflix Documentaries accompanied by orchestra music and top notch cinematography. I am talking about that Anthony Bourdain kind of “ish” that makes your mouth water all the way from T.V. land.
My friend Alex and I share a birthday, and since my wife, Kat, and his girl, Steph, recognize our epicurean affliction, we were gifted a birthday meal of our choosing. Alex and I discussed, debated, pondered, and deliberated over the course of a few days before we came to a conclusion. I wonder if our ladies knew that this decision potentially could have ended not only our friendship but our corresponding relationships.
This was not an easy task, we live moments away from the greatest food city in the world. Nevertheless, once we determined where we were going to celebrate our birthday we both knew it was the obvious and inevitable end of our dining dilemma. Our selection was none other than the award winning, highly acclaimed, Prune Restaurant, located at 54 E 1st St # 1, New York, NY 10003.
You may have seen Chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s intimate neighborhood spot on PBS’s Mind of the Chef recently. That is right, PBS isn’t just about Puppets, Reading Rainbows, and Happy Trees; they have wonderful food porn too. In fact, before food was cool, I watched the OG foodies on Public Broadcasting. I am pretty sure they are solely responsible for my love of all things food, so in reality this blog is PBS’s fault, not mine. On the real though, support PBS and don’t support any politician that does not! #YanCanCook #JuliaChilds #TheBudgetGourmet #SeasameStreetForLife
Sorry about that tangent…Now back to your regularly scheduled program!
First thing is first, when you are about to rock a super sweet meal that dreams are made of, one cannot, and should not assume there will be last minute availability at said eatery. Plan ahead people, this is a special occasion and should be treated as one. You would not just roll up to a wedding without RSVPin’, and unless you are a baller like Trevor Noah or Noah Syndergaard you are going to have to call ahead. Luckily for us, Steph was on point and made sure we had a table.
Another thing to keep in mind if you are visiting Prune, is the dining space is well…small. If I was a real estate agent I would call it quaint, charming, or cozy but I ain’t, so I won’t. I am not knocking the dining hall either, it is part of Prune’s appeal. Just know that if you want a table call early and plan accordingly. We were luckily enough to score the semi-private dining area in the basement which allowed us to stretch our legs out a little bit and take pictures of all our dishes without upsetting the restaurant’s atmosphere. Rumor has it that Prune’s staff is not a big fan of food photography. #SorryNotSorry
The last thing to know before we begin the food porn parade is that Prune’s menu is always evolving, morphing, and changing like most highly sought after establishments. Unless you go twice in one week you will probably never see the same menu and that my friends is a good thing.
After being seated we ordered a few cocktails and sat with our menus for a little while, contemplating what epic eats we should order. We discussed each of our decisions as if this was our last meal on earth and weighed our options before coming up with a plan for the meal that I believe most gastronomic architects would have been proud of.
Oysters have a special place in my heart. I think it has to do with it seeing the adults, the patriarchs to be exact, eating them when I was younger. As a child, I thought they were atrocious, but the elders in my tribe seemed to love them. Enjoying them was a goal that I aspired to achieve when I first began running the cultural marathon that I embarked on when I became a foodie. For many years now I have enjoyed Oysters and when they are good, there is something spiritual that lights up inside me. These Oysters were perfectly brackish and decadently delicate. They were the perfect start to our meal and foreshadowed the enlightened dishes that were to follow.
Since Kat would rather lick a subway hand rail on a Saturday morning than eat an Oyster, she chose to order Fried Green Beans as her appetizer. The batter these lovely fried beans were coated in was light and crispy. They had a very Tempuraish texture, and when dipped in the accompanying sauce they were very pleasing.
The moment we saw the Sweetbreads on the menu, there was not a discussion of whether we getting them, there was only a conversation about how many orders we should procure. For those of you that are new to the foodie scene, Sweetbreads are pancreas or thymus from either calves or lambs.
I don’t know what the Chef’s at Prune did to these Sweetbreads but they should do it to every Sweetbread on the planet forever until the end of time. I have had some good Sweets in the past but they all pale in comparison to this dish. Other offal, including other sweetbreads, which I eaten has a heavy irony taste that is off putting but these tantalizing titbits of terrific were nothing short of amazing. The combination of the crispy exterior and tender, almost buttery meat, created the perfect bite with each forkful.
If you have not had the opportunity to eat the Marrow out of a Bone smeared on crusty bread, the above picture probably does nothing for you. If you have used marrow like butter and savored the opulent decadence that this dish delivers, you probably feel like a 12 year old again that can’t walk to the Chalkboard. I care not that this dish raised my cholesterol and perhaps stole a day of my life from me, it can have it. To be honest, I would have given it two more, so I feel like I got a deal.
In a futile attempt to feign being healthy we ordered a dish of mushrooms to round out our appetizer course. I was happy to find that these beautiful fungi were swimming in a delicious sauce thus slightly negating their healthiness and adding to their robust flavor.
With the appetizers merely a memory and another drink ordered we awaited our entrees and discussed politics, world-travel, sports, and physics. A belly full of awe inspiring food and Prune’s ambience mixed with an adequate amount of social lubricant made us all into philosophers. While the Chef’s inside the kitchen were toiling away creating our entrees we continued conversing.
I am not going to lie, the photo above was Alex’s choice, and it gave me the biggest base of food envy I have had in quite some time. Ladies and Gentleman, that right there is a Shank of Lamb. Not just any Lamb Shank, either. A fall off the bone, tender, flavorful, lovingly prepared Lamb Shank that I did not order! However, Alex was kind enough to allow me to sample this supple lamb swimming in a bright and intense gravy. It only made me hate him more!
Kat went with the Chicken Stew and as the smell of her dish wafted over the table I immediately thought of my Grandmother’s Matzoh Ball soup. Our olfactory senses are something of a mystery but I know for sure that they tend to be the strongest link for me to happy memories, and the fact that this dish brought me back to my childhood and one of my favorite soups of all times, made it clear that I was going to love this dish. I was not wrong, because as I tasted this liquid gold I fell in love.
Steph decided on the Seafood Stew and it was not only beautiful but scrumptious as well. The delicate morsels of seafood were bathed in a tangy broth that combined to create one fantastic bite after another. I was lucky enough to get a few mouthfuls of this amazing dish as well and it was difficult to decipher which piece of fresh seafood I liked the best.
Even though the lamb shank that Alex ordered was my favorite dish that was ordered and my jealousy almost consumed me. I was happy that I ordered the whole fish. It was expertly prepared and seasoned and left me wondering how other restaurants can mess up such a simple, yet fantastic dish. The fish itself was flaky and flavorful and the sauce was liquid perfection. I thoroughly enjoy this style of preparation and was ecstatic to see that Prune does it right.
In another attempt to appear as if we were eating healthy we ordered a side of greens for the table. Once again the vegetables were smothered in a mouthwatering au jus of awesome sauce and I found myself not being able to stop consuming them.
Normally I am a not a dessert person at restaurants. Don’t get it twisted I thoroughly enjoy sweets of all makes and models, however, I like them hours after I eat a large savory meal. With that said, I simply could not pass up two of Prune’s desserts because they were not your typical after meal cakes or pastries.
We ordered an aged cheese that was just south of funky enough to make you question every bite of cheese you have ever eaten. Plus they paired it with a sweet honey drizzle that cut the funk enough to call it a dessert. We also ordered a salt crusted baked pear that was served with a walnut glaze that was utterly fantastic. The salty tartness of the pear dancing with the nutty glaze lead to a superb end to out opulent meal.
Prune is the type of restaurants that make a foodie’s dream a reality. Each dish they prepare is well thought out, artfully plated, and extraordinarily delicious. There is a reason they were showcased on a television show that celebrates the unadulterated love of food and culinary imagination. I highly recommend that every foodie that reads this blog starts saving money right now to visit this illustrious eatery. There are good meals, there are great meals, and then there are meals that are spiritually enlightening. Prune serves the latter with a side of epicurean delight.