If, as I’ve claimed, all that keeps Black Pearl from being my neighborhood ideal is its budget-blasting wine list, and all that keeps Steuben’s from same is occasionally amateurish output, then all that keeps Deluxe from the title is precisely nothing.
This totally jazzy little joint—all black-on-tan and leopard print, the warm hum of wining-and-dining grown-ups counterpointing the cool silvertones of big-band swing—just wins me over with its easy pizzazz. I’ve mentioned my predilection for bar seating, the only disadvantage being less privacy; well, get a load of Deluxe’s two-seater—a veritable canoodling corner for borderline drunkards like us! I’ve given Steuben’s Abra the nod for the discretion that is the better part of friendliness; now, meet Derek (Derrick?)—funny & enthusiastic, but only to the extent you invite him to be. I’ve complained about wine lists whose boutique leanings belie the casual ethos of the eateries they supposedly represent; here, the wine list seems as though it was written just for a plain old ordinary oenophile like me—select yet unfussy, favoring ballsy reds from places other than California, it hovers around a price point commensurate with the pricing of the food.
And, on that note, the food itself? Likewise unfussy, but not for a moment uninspired. Robust, but not so you bust. The menu’s laden with signatures, so cravings for faves rarely go unmet, but the kitchen knocks out nightly specials to keep restless tastebuds from roaming too far from the home-away-from-home it has established itself as. (Sticky syntax is, in my case, a sure sign of epicurean excitement. Bear with me.)
Cases in point are the 2 appetizers we shared a few nights back. First, stellar steak tartare: textbook in almost every way, from its near-deliquescence to its perfect balance of secondary flavors—yolk, Dijon, caper—this staple diverges from the classic only in its all-the-more-luscious use of foccaccia rather than baguette points.
Second, a special of potato skins—that foolproof fave circa 1985 that seems to be making a welcome, and classy, comeback—in this case via a mound of smoked salmon, caviar and tarragon cream. All told, a study in textural contrasts and salty complements.
Moving on to mains: while my huge smoked pork chop was, to my taste, just slightly overdone, as I welcome a hint of pink in my pig, it was by most standards done to a turn; but what really made the plate were the whipped sweet potatoes—intriguingly spiced, not merely nutmeggy, and not at all cloying—and the tender-crisp brussels sprouts, bathed in a bacon-sprinkled cider reduction.
My dear DC—let’s, from here on out, call him the Director (with a nod to galleygirl & her Commodore)—didn’t care quite as much for his grilled swordfish with cilantro pesto, avocado, black beans and hominy as he did for my chop; conversely, save for the fish’s slight (but only slight) dryness, I may have liked his even better for its tropical snap.
The fact that it all began with a fine flatbread reminds me it will soon be time to expound upon the importance of bread baskets to the overall dining experience. And also that right now it’s time for supper.