It’s not just the intimacy of the narrow space, the staccato of recumbent bottles, or the undercounter light that falls indiscreetly on your thigh that gives tiny Bar Tonno its sexy air. It’s the voluptuousness of raw sea creatures carved by a sushi sensei, smartly decked out with an Italian accent, and often offered three to a plate. Raw lobster spattered with intensified tomato and capers. Alaskan spot prawns with a toss of clam and scallion alongside. And kampachi scented with ginger oil. A squid-ink shot tastes like a day at the beach. Fluke is silken, with baby chanterelles, leeks, and seaweed, while orata rossa fairly glows with pulverized pepper in a lemony glaze. Burrata, a buttery mozzarella-like cheese, with peppers and basil, to pile on Sardinian crisps, reminds us that it’s L’Impero’s Italy-inspired chef-partner Scott Conant playing out his fantasies here. Yet as I let a sliver of garlic-touched chu-toro linger on my tongue, I suddenly found my carnal self craving a hamburger. I am not alone, it seems—and Conant has apparently gotten the message. He recently added focaccia, a big toss of wild greens, and a hearty seafood stew to keep fans from running off for a burger before dessert—green-apple-ginger-prosecco cocktail and truffles on the house.
17 Cleveland Pl., near Kenmare St.; 212-966-7334