The endless delays at the seemingly jinxed 10 Downing dulled my expectations. That’s why an early tasting of the food—carefully cooked and jumping with flavor—is a wonderful surprise. Consultant Katy Sparks, in cahoots with chef Jason Neroni, has conjured up marvelous starters: giant prawns à la plancha with toasted garlic; roasted beets with red grapefruit and blue cheese and a lusty toss of Brussels sprouts, soft-boiled egg, and Parmesan in anchovy vinaigrette. The cooks play with all the usual ingredients as if they’d just invented them. The squid-ink agnolotti are rich with crab and vibrate with a citric rush of lemon butter. Lush homemade potato gnocchi mingle with braised porcini, butternut squash, and sheep’s-milk cheese. A remarkably juicy chicken for two nests on arugula panzanella salad with currants, chopped almonds, and preserved lemon. Chickpea fritters are almost gossamer. Bitter, soufflélike chocolate cake gets baked to order. All sorts of objects, including now-ubiquitous deer’s antlers, decorate the casual, window-wrapped room, although what might be a compelling photo series is too close to the ceiling to see. (I can, however, read the menu without a flashlight. That’s a plus.) All those hard surfaces and glass churn up a wall of noise—and “We put you in the quietest corner,” I am told. The recorded tinklings of jazz are cool, and at times actually sound live. A miracle, I suppose, given the din. Excited as I am about the food, I’ll be back.
10 Downing St., at Sixth Ave.; 212-255-0300