Open the door and you see a bar on the right taking up more than half the length of the restaurant. Tables and chairs line the opposite wall. Lots of space in the middle. Even more at the front of the bar. Continue to the back up a few steps to about a half dozen tables that are surrounded by a sort of couch padding and what could be construed as the “dining room” aka private “vip” area. Dance club type music fills the air and only for the atmosphere.
The purpose is to draw bar goers, who love to mingle, drink and eat. Don’t expect “bar food” as Ivy Bar and Grill would be more likely to refer to themselves as a “Gastro Pub”. Located at 944 Eighth Avenue and 56th Street, the menus have twists on food as well as not the most common beers.
Take, for instance, about a dozen just on tap. Jacob, one of the managers, gave me some descriptions. Leffe is a Belgian wheat beer, similar to Blue Moon, with a bit of smoothness. Mother’s Milk, an Irish stout. Ommegang Witte, a white Belgian, with orange, smooth beer similar to a Stella Artois. Bronx Ale. Why not? Brooklyn’s got theirs and so the Bronx has one as well. This pale ale is “hoppy” and refreshing. Peak Organic. And for those that have a wheat allergy there is a Hard Cider.
I eyed a cocktail called, Acai Lemon Drop. Grey Goose vodka, Cedilla Acai Liquor, lemon and fresh acai berries. Might as well have one that appears “healthy”. It tasted both sweet and tart…loved it.
We now get to the food. Jim Hanley is the Executive Chef who put the twists on what one would construe as “common food items”. Start with using local produce from the Farmer’s Market, along with fresh seafood and meats. Sampling the menu I opted for an array of appetizers, of which most are meant to share.
Salmon Carpaccio. It’s not sliced as thin as a beef carpaccio, as this one has to be at least thick enough to flash broil this sushi grade salmon. It’s topped with a spicy ginger aioli and crisp vegetable threads (I must inquire how this is done).
Polenta Fries. What a great idea. The herb infused “corn flour meal” is cut up into thick “French Fries”, sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese and served with a dip.
Spice Crusted Tuna on Plantain Chips. This sushi grade tuna is dusted with spices and seared rare. Served on plantain chips with avocado cream and grilled mango, they are accompanied with two pepper sauces. I found that although both the salmon and tune were slightly cooked, they retained their “non-fishy” flavor.
Pan Seared Sea Scallops. They have this as an appetizer with almond peach vinaigrette, sliced scallions and basil. An entrée portion has mango relish, jalapeno crema, accompanied by grilled asparagus, sliced garlic potatoes, and cilantro scallion sauce. This one screams “fresh”.
Layered Shrimp and Avocado is like a shrimp cocktail served in a jar. The black tiger shrimp is halved, with a layer of chopped lettuce, avocado and green goddess dressing. A few layers of this.
Shrimp Sliders. 5 spice marinated shrimp, sautéed, dressed with scallion ginger aioli served on mini brioche rolls. Accompanied by an Asian style slaw of carrots, cabbage, sriracha, and rice vinegar.
Lobster Tacos. The fresh Maine lobster meat (after cooking whole lobsters) is cut up into chunks and mixed with grilled corn, tomatoes, and basil cream. It is served on 3 soft flour tortillas.
Sweet and Spicy Calamari. The fresh calamari is cut up into both the rings and tentacles, breaded and fried. A sweet and spicy sauce is drizzled over the top as well as having a peanut ginger sauce to dip it in. Very tender and a welcome change to dipping it in a marinara sauce.
Steakhouse Springrolls. Mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, sliced steak in a crisp spring roll with a homemade steaksauce. Two long springrolls each cut into two pieces. A mini-meal unto itself.
As for the rest of the menu, there are sandwiches, burgers and entrees to partake in. They are working on desserts. www.ivybarnyc.com