77 Worth St., nr. Church St.; 212-226-1444
There are many things that separate Matthew Lightner’s deliriously refined little tasting room from the legions of other effete, pricey tasting bars that have been popping up around town lately like pods of mushrooms. There’s the polished space, which manages, with its wood paneling and tastefully potted greenery, to exude intimacy, elegance, and a dash of woodsy adventure all at the same time. There’s the excellent wine-and-spirits program, which rivals the much grander gourmet dining palaces uptown. But mostly there’s Lightner’s cooking, which, in terms of range (twenty dishes per meal; $165), technique (beet “embers” touched with trout roe, finger-size lobster rolls made with meringue), and quirky inventiveness (you’ll swear that mini-baguette is a razor clam), is as good as anything we’ve seen in this stolid, meat-and-potatoes town since the molecular-gastronomy glory days of Wylie Dufresne.