People I trust said, “Cookshop is our new favorite restaurant,” so I grabbed Bubby and dragged him all the way over to 20th & 10th.
The room seems to have done a good job establishing itself in a very boring space. Clearly a soulless person designed the real estate and they seem to have warmed it up some with red leather banquets, wood furniture, and a wide-open kitchen. There is a wall of windows looking west across 10th Ave., but somehow it feels more like you are in an Anderson showroom then a restaurant.
The wine list is fun: about 70 red and another 70 white, all very friendly with the menu. It has a good sampling of the regions of the wine world where people eat. The prices range from $26 to $173 but favor the lower side. We chose a Ribola from Greece, as I believe one must always do when the opportunity arises. It was a perfect representation of Ribola, a warm weather white with a very pronounced fruity nose of melon and lemons, not very structured, but for $27 we figured it was worth a try, and it was. We brought the other one home when we moved on to a Priorat for $57. It was very Californian. Pronounced fruit, young and kind of one note, definitely not representative of the depth these wines can offer but we knew we were walking down that road when we chose such a young example.
When asked for suggestions, our waiter responded that he ”liked just about everything and it really depended on his mood,” a fine answer because it seemed genuine. When pushed, he said the smoked bluefish appetizer and all the salads were especially good. We decided to grab a couple of starters and then negotiate dinner when we saw how full we were.
Under starters we went with the recommended bluefish. It was quite nice, made even more so by the fact that I believe bluefish is almost always horrible. Except for Pasternack’s (Esca) bluefish crudo the only other preparation I knew of was this. Cookshop’s dish comes on an arugala salad dressed with a muscadet vinaigrette and three types of local grape. Also from starters we had fried market vegetables. Really just veggie tempura -- bell peppers, onions and broccoli -- I was glad to have it because it allowed me to use the sel gris on the table. Fried food can always tolerate more salt even if your chef has a deft hand, which I find frustratingly common at places that put good salt on the table. You want to use it but the food doesn’t need it.
From the salad section we had the autumn lettuces with warm anchovy dressing. A great use of bitter greens and the awesome way they can play off Bagna Cauda. One of the dishes you should feed morons that say things like “I don’t like anchovy, it’s fishy.”
From snacks we had Florida shrimp beignets. You know that intriguing almost chlorine flavor of a salt-water pool that comes from a great shrimp dumpling? This is that. There is a dipping sauce I used but I can’t promise it changed much.
The first round was a perfect size and was definitely good enough, so we decided to go with two entrees and a side. The entrée section is divided into sauté, grill, wood oven, and rotisserie and there are four $5 sides.
From wood oven we went with Farmers cheese and beet green-stuffed pasta on smashed Hubbard squash. The squash, which was a puree and on the bottom of the cast iron serving/cooking dish, was a saturated solution of butter and squash, it was absolutely velvety. The pasta, which is really a manicotti, was great, a good showing for the subtle sweetness of beet greens.
From the grill section we got the Berkshire pork sirloin & link cider-braised cabbage & smoked pear mustard. If this sounds like something you will like, get it. It was as good as this dish can be. Compared to the pasta, though, it seemed to me like the kind of comfort food I should make at home and let the chefs wow me with more original fare
For a side we decided to go back to Snacks for the fried spiced hominy. Yummy. Might be fun to pop into the bar for a dish of these and a beer some day.
Cookshop does a great job with intersting ingredients. The thing I find interesting is that my reaction was to wish it were closer so I could more easily go more often. Then I found myself hoping everyone felt that way so that it is always accessible. This would be a great place to remember, pop over, wait 20 minutes, sit down with no reservation, and enjoy a meal.