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Coppa’s Cornucopia

Hell, I already blew my wad regarding Coppa in a single Tweet. It went something like this: “I was among the 1st to write about @Jamiebiss’s way with offal, & when lesser fat-storers keel over, I’ll be the last.”

In 2005, I met Jamie Bissonnette for the 1st time in the lobby of a local cable TV station; due to an article I’d written for Stuff, we were there to discuss on air the nose-to-tail charcuterie with which he was just beginning to make a name for himself at Eastern Standard. I liked him immediately—a young, big, beefy, strawberry-blonde, tattooed up to here, with an equal taste for punk & pork.

Since then, I’ve proudly watched him kick oxtail & take names at KO Prime, Toro, & now Coppa, his joint venture with Ken Oringer. That I didn’t go for dinner is one of my deepest regrets following this particular trip to Beantown, because I tend to behave better at brunch.

Still, pal H & I did okay for relatively sober people.

Warm salt-cod crostini. Well, would ya look at that. I’m guessing, what a full cup of the stuff atop a whole piece of grilled toast?

The world’s most famous salt-cod spreads—Provençal brandade de morue, Venetian baccalà mantecato—can vary widely, from rough to creamy, via any combination of milk/cream, garlic/onion, potatoes, herbs, olive oil & lemon juice. This one let the fish do most of the talking—flaky, funky, but still very much itself given all it had been through: salting, drying, rinsing, toasting, broiling, I don’t know what all—enhanced by the crunchy chew of the bread.

Cauliflower marinated with thyme, shallots & sea salt. H & I didn’t know how brilliant we were, really, ordering this at the same time as the salt cod. ‘Twas the perfect foil: served cold & crisp, lightly tangy, simple & fresh.

Rabbit porchetta. Usually, coniglio in porchetta is a dish of rabbit stuffed & roasted in the manner of a whole pig; here, it’s served terrine-style with whole-grain mustard. Again, the emphasis is on the flavor of the meat itself, midly salty-sweet & cutting like butter.

Wood oven–roasted pig’s tail with mostarda glaze. Classic Bissonnette. The meat just slid off the bone in rich, tender, pungent chunks; the mostarda di frutta, which we were told was made from jars of “ghetto fruit salad,” was its ideal match, sharply bright & sticky-sweet.

We ended with a toasted Nutella-banana sandwich—perfectly fine, but hardly representative of Coppa’s repertoire. Next time, I’ll go for the gold—spaghetti alla carbonara with sea urchin; wood-fired pizza with burrata & chili oil; smoked beef tongue with anchovies & almonds (sigh). Until then, though, I’m glad I got to experience the place at its least chaotic; after all the reports of hour-plus waits, we walked right in on at noon on a sunny Sunday. Something to consider if you’ve been avoiding the crowds thus far.

Coppa on Urbanspoon

Dish of the Week: Crudo di Seppie, Il Punto, NYC

***Published for the week of 1/18/10, edited on 1/25/10.***

Seppie usually translates as “cuttlefish,” but our server at Il Punto in Hell’s Kitchen translated it as “calamari”—i.e., of course, squid, but since calamari was also listed in a couple of dishes on the menu, I’m all in a muddle as to whether she just didn’t want to give me pause w/r/t some spooky sea creature I’d never heard of or whether they just use the words & concepts interchangeably, however inaccurately (sure, squid & cuttlefish are relatives, but that’s not the same as the same). Granting that I can’t swear on dead people that I’d know the difference in a taste test, I choose to think a) that deep down I would & b) that the 2 dishes I ordered in the course of 2 visits (full review soon) referencing seppie indeed contained cuttlefish.

Then again, I could totally be convinced these were flakes off a layer of skin from an angel flayed alive in outer space.

How could something sliced so thin as to be translucent, possessing a flavor so exquisitely delicate & washed clean, hold up to slivers of sundried tomato & roasted pepper, petals of marinated artichoke heart? But it did; along with spritzes of lemon juice & frisée with a touch of lemon vinaigrette, the dish was a study in the compelling presence of the barely there.