Is Charlie Bird the best restaurant in the U.S.? It’s my current favorite…

razor clam recipeThe meal at Charlie Bird in lower Manhattan was so good the other night that I felt like I was cheating on my wife by eating there without her.

Yes, yes, I know. It’s ridiculous to talk about “the best restaurant” anywhere. I’m a devout anti-listiclist but my experience at Charlie Bird was so thrilling that I’m just going to go ahead and blurt it out like a schoolboy: it’s my favorite restaurant in the country right now.

That’s the crudo we were served, above, razor clams and bay scallops (I wrote up nearly all the dishes over on the Cantele USA blog; the dinner was the culmination of a week in NYC with my super good friend and client Paolo Cantele, who treated me to this extravagant repast).

barbaresco santo stefano giacosaYes, it’s true: the bottle of 1998 Giacosa Barbaresco Santo Stefano didn’t hurt.

Man, what a wonderful vintage of this wine to drink right now! I’m sure it has many years ahead of it but it was an extremely thoughtful (and generous) selection by Paolo, for its elegance, grace, and drinkability. Perhaps more than any other producer, Giacosa’s wines capture the “unbearable lightness,” the ineffable balance of power and litheness that make Barbaresco such a unique expression of Italian viticulture.

Between 1999 and 1998, the former is arguably the better vintage. But this wine drank at what might be the peak of its performance. Simply stunning wine.

roulot tillets mersaultLike nineteenth-century amanuenses, Robert Bohr and Grant Reynolds transcribe their reserve list by hand. How cool is that? Very, in my book.

And every wine on their handlist can be ordered by the half bottle (they pour the rest of the wine by-the-glass on the same night).

I recently hung out with Robert and Grant and they are both such down-to-earth, genuinely nice guys (despite the flurry of media attention they’ve received in recent years).

It’s not hard to understand why everyone in the wine trade wants to eat at their spectacular restaurant (apologies for the superlatives but I just really, really loved this place).

Paolo, thanks again for this truly unforgettable experience. We had a great week together in New York and this was a real treat.

Grant, thanks so much for taking such great care of us and the fantastic wines you shared. The Roulot was so spot-on and a breathless pleasure for me. Your restaurant and wine list are super cool.

On the food: Charlie Bird’s menu is confident without arrogance; it is self-aware without cockiness. That may sound like a weird thing to say about a gourmet experience. But how many dishes are served in Manhattan every night with a side of affectation? Too many to count… Check out my write-up of the food on Paolo’s U.S. blog here.

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