Whistle a happy tune at Prune

August 19, 2005 | By | COMMENTS

So I did Prune for brunch when I got back from Europe and Lisa and I loved it. Remember?

I was soon set on the idea of eating there for dinner. My friends Molly and Colin, from my program, told me how much they loved it last time I saw them. And then yesterday in the NYT, Prune’s chef/owner Gabrielle Hamilton wrote a really sweet and loving piece about her Italian mother in law. When Lisa called for dinner I said, “Why not Prune?” and she agreed.

The staff at Prune is among my favorites if not my top favorite in the city. The hostess is a ball of energy and fun and bursting with good humor. The waitress was kind, helpful and deeply enthusiastic about the food. We were sat at a table right near the front (I called and made a 6:30 reservation at 5 pm and so it’s worth calling ahead because many show-ups had to wait an hour or more.) We were immediately presented with boiled peanuts:

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Lisa tore one open and hot oil sprayed on her white shirt.

“Ugh,” she said.

The peanuts were seasoned with cayenne and cumin and were a really interesting start, but I’m not going to rave about them. If you’re someone who likes boiled peanuts, you might rave, I just appreciated the gesture of them serving something so unexpected and yet so familiar.

The waitress talked us through the menu. The main menu had appetizers and main courses, as most menus do. There was a separate section for sides because, as the waitress explained, “everything’s served a la carte.” (Yet, when you look at the pictures of our mainplates, you’ll see how unnecessary sides proved to be.) Additionally, there was a bar menu with bar snacks that were cheaper than the appetizers and yet equally alluring.

From the bar snack menu, I suggested that Lisa and I share the goat cheese with buttered bread and pickled onions:

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When I pictured it in my head, I didn’t picture this. I kind of pictured miniature goat cheese sandwiches or something less rustic but I loved how rustic it turned out to be. Doesn’t that presentation kind of look like a painting? I’d never had “hard” goat cheese before. I tried to convince Lisa that you could eat the rind and I emphasized my point but eating bits of the rind myself. They tasted kind of funny; a bit like poison. I asked the waitress if you could eat the rind and she said she wasn’t sure, she’d ask the kitchen. When she came back from the kitchen she said, “Well it won’t kill you if you do, but it’s not recommended.” Lisa smirked.

So vegetarians, pay attention here, I have great news for you. Prune’s menu looks a bit unfriendly to vegetarians if you look on menupages. Sure, the sides are veggie friendly but none of the main courses. But Lisa had been to Prune once before and she remembered they made her, last time, a beautiful veggie plate that she raved over. She asked the waitress to do the same and look what they gave her:

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I of the anti-veggie camp drooled over the vast array of sides and beautiful vegetables that adorned Lisa’s plate. I’m a huge fan of variety and here was a taste of everything Prune had to offer the vegetarian. Looking at the menupages menu now, here are some things I think you can identify on that plate: shaved artichoke and celery salad with parmesan, extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice; cold spicy eggplant; cauliflower, capers, brown butter; potato galette. There were also radishes with butter, an unusual combination to say the least. I picked from Lisa’s plate most greedily.

For my plate, I took the waitress’s suggestion and ordered the roast suckling pig with pickled tomatoes, blackeyed pea salad, & aioli.

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I think that photo gives you a good sense of what you get at Prune. An extremely generous portion of “meat” (or featured item) and then beautiful, unusual and exciting to the eye and palate sides. Those pickled tomatoes were dotted with jalapenos so there was a big kick to them; the aioli was garlicky and creamy and went brilliantly with the pig. And as for the pig, it was prefectly moist and succulent and flavorful. For the record, my doctor’s appointment to get my cholesterol checked is Monday the 29th at 10 am. Report to follow.

For dessert (and how could we not get dessert?) we shared this heaven-on-earth delicious chocolate bread pudding with mmmmmmm sauce (I don’t remember its name):

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What a perfect dessert. Compact, flavorful, rich, decadent, easy to share. And the sauce, oh the sauce.

With the check came two Lychees another Prunish touch:

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It’s gestures like these that add up to make for a magnificent evening. I think the title of someone’s review on Menupages says it best: “Do you want chandeliers or food?” He goes on to write: “If you want food that will leave you smiling all evening, try Prune. I’ll be back!” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Categories: East Village

  • http://labsurdite.blogspot.com Gloria

    Prune is one of my favourite places in NY too. The first time I ever went there, my two friends and I were positively in food heaven (I remember that I got the suckling pig, which was amazing). As if the food wasn’t amazing enough, when it came time for dessert, we got two on the house for “ordering the best dinner of the night”. It was wholly unexpected and muchly appreciated. If only it weren’t so goshdarn small! But any bigger, and it wouldn’t be the same.

  • http://www.chopstickcinema.com Celeste

    I loved that article about Gabrielle’s mother-in-law. Too bad I live in the Napa Valley (well not really :>) so I can’t just go ’round to Prune on any whimsical weeknight like you did. And lychee fruits with the check, nice touch! How could anyone complain about the price of the bill with a mouth full of heaven.

  • inkadinkadoo

    You’ve not ever had crisp radishes with butter and salt? Oh my, a very tasty treat. My grandmother used to thinly slice the radishes and layer them on fresh buttered bread with a little salt, but on their own, yum!

  • Joe

    Sounds delicious!

    but you were seated

    you weren’t sat

    — i know it’s restaurant lingo, but it drives me crazy

  • Stefano DiMera

    if you ever want to go to prune for brunch with your friends and you want to call the night before because there are 8 of you and you think “the ladies at prune are so nice, they’ll try to save the downstairs table for us if we say we’re coming,” don’t try calling 411 for the number. 411 thinks prune doesn’t exist and won’t give you the number. is prune unlisted? i think not. 411 is stupid.

  • http://www.inpraiseofsardines.com Brett

    Although I live in San Francisco, I visit Prune every time I’m in New York (twice this year). It’s one of my favorite restaurants anywhere. For me, it’s the quintessential neighborhood restaurant: fun, friendly, creative, surprising, quirky, yummy. You captured it so perfectly with your words and pictures. Thank you. Adore your site, too–this is my first time posting a comment, but not my last.

  • Annoyed

    Having read Ms. Hamiliton’s bigoted article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/25/magazine/25food.html I will spend a good amount of time trying to reeducate this woman without a brain or heart.