First Impression: TriBeCafe

tribecafe-facade-by-tribeca-citizenI think it’s unfair to review a restaurant a few days after it opens, and it’s not helpful for potential patrons, either, because so much can change. But I do believe there’s value in knowing what a new restaurant is like—so here’s a quick take on TriBeCafe, the new restaurant from the folks behind Greenwich Grill. Behind the center doors in the photo above, it’s in what used to be Tokyo Bar, at 277 Church (between White and Franklin).

The handsome room is a rectangle with a bar along the left side, just past the stairs that lead down (from the outside, through the red doors in the photo) to the basement bar called B Flat. Along the right-hand wall is a banquette with two- and four-tops, and past that is a large circular booth with two tables inside it. There are more tables at the far end of the room, on the left side. The wall behind the bar is brick and lined with high shelves of bottles (and there’s a metal ladder on rails, like in a library). The other is covered in a sort of thatched wallpaper—I’m sure there’s an interior-design word for it,but I don’t know it. Multi-bulbed light fixtures—they’re too masculine/industrial to be called chandeliers—add significant character.

While the food is defined as “Tokyo casual,” there’s a dignity to the place that reminds me very much of Greenwich Grill; the staff, for instance, is in starched white. Unlike Greenwich Grill, however, no one greets you—or at least not last night—so entering can feel a bit awkward. Our waiter, however, couldn’t have been nicer, and the bartender took his drink-making very seriously, stirring my Manhattan with one large ice cube in a cut-crystal beaker. (And I love that the Manhattan, which was only $9, wasn’t huge. Cocktails shouldn’t be served in glasses that could double as fishbowls.)

And the food? I posted the menu here. We had the daily carpaccio (fluke), the mentaiko spaghetti, the salmon teriyaki, and the Ebisu beef curry—and while everything was delicious, the portions are on the smaller side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, given that (a) prices are cheap, and (b) I then had an excuse to order French fries.

I was pleased to see that like Greenwich Grill, the restaurant has a hard-to-describe quality that I remember from Tokyo. There’s something quintessentially Japanese about both places, and it’s not just the food. If that’s what sometimes makes them feel like they’re operating on their own frequency, it’s also what gives them charm.


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