Choosing dishes from the bill of fare is quite possibly the most nerve-racking experience a patron undergoes during any meal at a normal restaurant. The careful selection of an appetizer to contrast with the entrée, the mind-numbing deliberation about cuts of meat to order, or what side dish to accompany such and such a plate--meals are often constructed by coin flips. In that sense, a menu with a plethora of options can sometimes do more harm than good. Similarly, when presented with a My Cousin Vinny-esque choice of breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a diner might feel slavish and trapped--unable to decide upon one's own repast, lethargy and apathy set in, and no matter how amazing the meal may be, the lack of freedom will weigh heavily upon one's soul.
Thus, it is with great satisfaction and enormous pleasure that I proclaim Kitchen 82 and its executive chef, Charlie Palmer, as having struck the perfect harmony between too much choice and not enough. With only five options listed under starters (though they still manage to cover a wide culinary range), a patron is provided with enough choices to enjoy the liberty of consumerism, and still remain undaunted by a five-pound menu. My choice was the braised veal crêpe, a small pastry stuffed with savory and smoothly-spiced veal, roasted red peppers, and a piquant mushroom ragu. Although the portion was on the small side, the chewy innards pleased my tongue resoundingly, and the perfectly cooked crêpe offered a glimpse into the proficiency of the chef.
Another five listings beneath the title "Mains" again straddled the quagmire of decision-making; my choice was the grilled hanger steak. Quite often, I am skeptical ordering hanger steak at non-steakhouse restaurants, as the delicate touch of a grillmaster is usually demanded in preparation of the juicy cut. However, my reservations were put aside with the utmost haste as my medium-rare steak came out oozing the blood I so dearly love. The slices of beef were tender, melt-in-your-mouth supple, and the baby spinach and bruschetta side were the perfect complement to the meat. My only criticism of the dish was the nan bread that served as a perch for the meat and vegetables. By the time I reached the nan, it had lost the crispness I expected, and had become slightly mushy. However, because the bread had absorbed the sauces from the steak, I did not overly miss the crunch.
As my final course, I settled upon the roll cake (pronounced rollè, for some reason), a rich chocolate offering covered with walnuts and presented with fresh whipped cream. The chocolate was smooth and mild, but unfortunately, the portion was somewhat miniscule (although by this time in the meal, I was nearing maximum capacity).
Kitchen 82 straddles the delicate line between too many and too few decisions, and by establishing the $25 prix fixe, removes yet another bothersome query from the deliberation process. All in all, Charlie Palmer's newest establishment (and first on the Upper West Side) will satisfy both your stomach and your sense of freedom without saddling you with either a hefty bill or difficult pre-meal decisions.