Less than 24 hours after working myself into a tizzy over the seafood fritto misto featuring sea urchin I’d spotted on Colt & Gray’s online menu, the Director & I hurried in, only to find the repertoire had changed completely & literally overnight. Good thing I was able to drown my sorrows about the fish fry that got away with a superb cocktail, namely the gin-based, herb-&-citrus-redolent Misty Rose, splashed with Aperol & Lillet Blanc (Italian & French aperitifs, respectively) & tinged with sage.

Better thing I was able to stuff down my sorrows with some mighty fine substitute eats. Not having paid a visit to the place in quite some time—the last being rather heavy on the booze & light on the food (as well as rich in conversation with some local aces of alcohol, including C&G barman Kevin Burke, whose obvious talent has rightly had nothing to do with the recent, justifiable concern over his career trajectory)—I can now say with certainty the next trip won’t be so long overdue. It’s damn good, in short, & occasionally great.

For instance, as bar snacks go, snails fly far too under the radar. Served here en baguette with garlic-sorrel butter, they’re fat little morsels, rich & earthy…tasting, in fact, so much like wild mushrooms that I’d almost have suspected that’s what they were. Only their shape, & maybe a slight, mmm, fleshiness convinced me otherwise.

By contrast, beets have been looming far too large on the radar for far too long. Look, I’m part Russian Jew; I was born to love borscht. But—& I’ve been saying this for a few years now, to no avail—enough with the beet salads already! At least beet burgers are a little more creative. Whether they were entirely successful is another matter; I loved the idea of replacing slider buns with sweet, crunchy-topped corn muffins & adding a schmear of cream cheese, but the tablespoon or so of diced beets just didn’t warrant the full sandwich treatment. Nice, super-lemony vinaigrette on the greens, though.

On the other hand, blood pudding, chopped over a strip of puff pastry, was grand. I think Cracovia gets the gold for this particular type of sausage—C&G’s was a little less nutty, & it’s that quality, due in the Polish restaurant’s case to the use of barley, that really gets me—but this version came close, enhanced by its dousing of sauce chasseur, based on meaty espagnole mixed with white wine, mushrooms & shallots. Quite the autumnal comfort.

Even better were the sweet potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms (guess I was in a fungal state of mind). If I hadn’t been told the little dumplings were made from sweet potatoes, I’d have sworn they contained parsnip; their sugar content didn’t seem quite that high. But that’s neither here nor there; they were well-made, light, with an unusually, appealingly crisp golden exterior. And while the combination of brown butter, chopped hazelnuts, sage & parmesan, may not be so unusual, that’s with good reason—it’s reliably awesome.

Speaking of classic combinations, I’m interested in lamb & lentils about an eighth as often as it’s offered. But I couldn’t keep my fork out of the the Director’s braised lamb shank & green lentils (aka lentils du Puy)—

partly because the meat was so silk-tender; partly because the lentils, cooked just a touch past al dente, had a peppery kick; & partly because the creamed kale wasn’t creamed to death—it still asserted itself in the mix. The hunter-style sauce added a soft tang.

I didn’t have an inch of room for the potted cheesecake with salted caramel, so it’s on my list for next time. Which had better be soon, or it’ll go the way of the urchin, & then I’ll have to start all over again, sobbing into yet another stellar quaff all the while.

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