Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Octavia's Porch - A Menu of Jewish Penicillin (And Not Just Chicken Soup)

Octavia's Porch - 40 Avenue B, New York NY 10009
F Train to 2nd Avenue


Ever since I found out about the opening of Octavia's Porch, the new Jewish restaurant from Chef Nikki Cascone (Top Cheftestant on Season 4) who also owns 24 Prince, I kept my eyes peeled.  Well it turns out that my cousin and fellow foodie adventurer, Vicky had the same thought when she emailed me recently saying "Judista...we need to go." I was so on-board, especially since I recently landed a sweet 50% off Scoutmob coupon that I was planning to put to good use.  In the end, we couldn't be happier with our decision.

Located deep within the East Village on Avenue B, Octavia's Porch has a remote feel.  While the neighborhood isn't the most attractive, once you set foot into the restaurant's cozy interior you forget all about it. 

The first thing I noticed was the soft lighting, which immediately helped set a laid-back, comfortable vibe.  The dining area is divided into a front, having the most amount of seating, a bar area in the middle and additional tables in the back.  I like the simple wooden furnishings and the earthy tones of color that leak of tradition and that foreshadow the delicious food up ahead.  The 12 seat long brass bar is a nice component that infuses a vintage element into this nostalgic space.

I couldn't wait to dive into the menu, because I quickly saw that it boasted familiar dishes cooked by Jewish families for generations.  Recognizing staples that my own family makes (matzoh ball soup, brisket, red cabbage, etc) I was excited to find out how Octavia's versions would measure up.

Homemade Challah Bread - Vicky and I were so obscenely happy when our waitress brought over a "freshly made challah bread with honey butter."  We lunged right in, grabbing generous pieces of a still warm, eggy, challah bread.  Not only was it light and airy, it was also a little sweet.  The honey butter added an extra sweet component that left the most delicate flavor on our palates.  We were satisfied and ready for more...

Salmon-Cucumber-Dill Schmear - The idea of Octavia's schmears excited me and though you can choose up to 3 flavors in one shot, we just went for the classic, salmon/cucumber/dill.  It tasted like a light salmon cream cheese with a slightly earthier kick from the fresh dill.  While it was tasty and a nice spread to put on the variety of crackers and bread that came with it, I don't think it was anything spectacular or unusual.

Beef and Veal Kreplach - Even though I've certainly heard the word "kreplach" before, I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it was.  Vicky explained they were "you know.. dumplings", and now that I think about it, I might've had them at her family's house at some point. 

Octavia's kreplach, were truly a sight to see (and taste).  Perfectly seared on the outside, boasting a golden crispy crust, they were glazed with a sweet and tangy soy sauce that penetrated even its meaty center.  Stuffed with grass fed beef and veal, the kreplach had a flavor that was rich and juicy, seasoned in just the right way.  I enjoyed scraping the sauce with a forkful of meat and even getting some loose scallions on top for an added bonus.

Brisket on Rye and Challah & Date Stuffing -  Vicky and I split this hefty sandwich, which came on beautifully-toasted rye bread, containing generous amounts of soft brisket and pickled onions.  It was the perfect dish to share, as the meat was very filling, especially when paired with a side of the challah & date stuffing, which reminded me of sweet bread pudding.  While it was delicious and a nice accompaniment to the sandwich, it was slightly dry and begged for some gravy or sauce.  The side of pickled red cabbage & apples that came with the sandwich was a tad sweet, a touch tart and very refreshing.

Service and Cost:
The waitstaff was personable, low-key and they did their job well.  Sporting a casual, funky East Village style, they fit in well with their surroundings and added to the authenticity of the place.  I enjoyed the thoughtful pacing of our food and the gracious way in which we were treated - it felt comfortable and homey.

Prices are affordable and include the following:

Appetizers - $5 - $10
Sandwiches - $12
Large Plates - $15 - $24
Sides - $5

Desserts - $3 - $7

With the above Scoutmob coupon I mentioned and the food I just described, our grand total was $14 each, including tax and tip.  Now that's what I call good naches.

3 Mmmms



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