New York has always been a polyglot town, and it’s no surprise that this diversity extends to its cuisine. New Zealand’s fresh cooking and unpretentious aesthetic is a fairly new one for this shore, but it’s right at home in Nolita, as newcomer the Musket Room demonstrates.
Already a hit with fashion friends of ours, the stylish restaurant has a stripped-down aesthetic that doesn’t try too hard to win you over; it’s a relaxing place to spend a few hours. The front dining room features a long walnut bar, exposed brick and whitewashed walls. The back room turns large windows onto the outdoor garden, where some of the plants grown are undoubtedly gracing your plate.
Food is just as pleasant to look at, each plate composed but not fussy. An appetizer of cold smoked scallops arrives with a domed silver topper – when it’s whisked off with a flourish by your server, a cloud of icy steam rises from the plate. Unexpected touches like this abound, including the torchon of seared foie gras that yields the crunchy, surprising addition of dehydrated mandarins. And at a place rustically titled the Musket Room, you must order the deer: tender, red-centered slices of venison steak in a delicate, juniper-laced sauce.
Even bread, generally just pre-meal filler, is presented here with ceremony, one small round to a plate. The bacon-Cheddar should not be missed, but the gluten-free brioche, made with white and brown rice flours, is hardly a hardship, so airy you’d never even realize it was free of anything.
Chef-owner Matt Lambert is a New Zealander who’s worked at Michelin-starred Public in New York, and also at sister restaurant Double Crown and its successor, Saxon + Parole. These are all owned by the AvroKo restaurant and design group, known for its understated-chic interiors. That sense has carried over here, and it would be appreciated in any part of the world.
The Musket Room
265 Elizabeth St. (at Houston St.)