Sun-Mon, 5:30pm-10pm; Tue-Thu, 5:30pm-11pm; Fri-Sat, 5:30pm-midnight
A, B, C, D, E, F, M at W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.; 1 at Houston St.
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Most of the time, when restaurateurs dramatically revamp a concept, it's because it's simply not working. The food costs aren't feasible. The neighbors have moved on to a hot new single-concept operation. The rent is too damn high. But with Perla, the fanciest—and most expensive—of Gabriel Stulman's six restaurants in the West Village, he had a hit on his hands. So why, after four years, has he decided to change it? Somewhere along the way, most New Yorkers started to view Perla as a special-occasion restaurant. This upset Stulman, who wants all of his concepts to feel like true neighborhood spots.
So Stulman closed the restaurant for a few days to quietly instate all the changes. Now the ceiling and the walls are cream-colored, the chairs are lighter, and the two redesigned bars are warmer and more welcoming. The art on the wall is more playful. And with the departure of opening chef Michael Toscano in November, 2014, there was room to redo the entire food menu, now headed by Jack Harris. "We were treating Perla like a younger and hipper vibe of Babbo," Stulman says. The new "tremendously lighter" menu includes dishes like salmon tartare, sweet-pea agnolotti, and hanger steak with salsa verde. It's also much more affordable.
There are three large-format dishes that appear pricey at first glance, but they're sized for four, not two. That breaks down to about $14 per person for the $55 lasagna with peas, ramps, Swiss chard, and pesto. And the massive $15 roast-pork sandwich could serve as a meal in itself. It's a sharp contrast to Perla 1.0, which served $75 dry-aged New York strip steaks with oxtail sugo, beef-cheek agnolotti, and lamb shank. Only two of the old dishes survived: the gnocchi and the orecchiette with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli-rabe pesto.