Sun-Thu, 5:30pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5:30pm-11pm
6 at Astor Pl.
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Scott Bryan is one of New York’s more gifted under-the-radar chefs. For many years, he worked at Veritas, in the Flatiron district, where his solid, multi-star cooking was regularly overshadowed by the restaurant’s grandiose wine list. In 2007, he moved on, and two years later, after a period of wandering in the proverbial desert, he has turned up at Apiary, in the East Village. “Miniature,” “modest,” and “cheery” were adjectives polite critics (like me) used to describe this terminally neighborly, decidedly one-star restaurant when it opened last year. But Bryan’s presence in the kitchen has amped things up to a somewhat startling new level. Suddenly, diver scallops are issuing from the kitchen obscured in delicate foams tasting faintly of Madras curry. Sweetbreads have popped up on the menu (served with a romesco purée), and the hamachi crudo is spiced with little shavings of jalapeño, the way Jean Georges likes to prepare it uptown. There’s also a very nice Thai beef salad on Apiary’s new appetizer menu (laced with lemongrass, crushed peanuts, and sprigs of mint), and a sturdy facsimile of Tuscan white-bean soup folded with black kale and properly rustic chunks of tomato. If you order the gourmet-level wild-mushroom risotto, you will find not one but three kinds of wild mushrooms (oyster, hen-of-the-woods, shiitake) buried within. The roast chicken (topped with more wild mushrooms, and set over a rich mascarpone-saturated polenta) is one of the better ones in the neighborhood, and the Berkshire pork chop is baby pink inside and flavored with a lightly sweet orange-ginger glaze. Except for the panna cotta, the desserts are mostly small time, but that’s okay. Dining at this new version of Apiary is bracing and even a little discombobulating, like riding in the back seat of your sister’s Mini Cooper, which has suddenly been commandeered by Dale Earnhardt Jr.Ideal Meal
Crisp sweetbreads, roasted chicken or pork chop, panna cotta