The Strong Buzz


November 6, 2003

Located in the space that was Tappo, Hearth is the debut venture from former Craft chef Marco Canora and Union Square Wine Director Paul Greco. The restaurant feels like a Craft spinoff, and the designers have unfortunately removed lots of the wonderfully rustic country-charm of the space replacing it with more sleek design. Exposed brick remains, but it feels like a Craft knockoff to me, decorated with the same color pallete, and the same solid oak tables. It just lacks that embrace and warmth you might expect from a restaurant called HEARTH.

That being said, it does get quite warm at Hearth, especially when you are seated at the food bar, overlooking the kitchen. Last time we scored two of those three coveted seats and watched the kitchen work, a mesmerizing and warm experience. If you chose this route, pack a bikini, or a fan or you may melt. After disrobing (women are always wearing tank tops under sweaters), we ordered a couple of glasses of white and decided to try a couple of the seafood appetizers and were blown away.

The red snapper crudo ($10) is miraculous. A slender rectangular plate arrives, lined with slices of red snapper that resemble fat dollops of liquid pearl, each luminous slice topped with minced roasted red pepper, bit of lemon and rosemary. Pop one in your mouth and sit quietly. Moan softly if you must. This dish is perfection in one bite--the lush, silky snapper brightened by the lemon and pepper, with an earthy bass note of rosemary. It’s a perfect stimulant for your appetite, and more.

The next dish we tried was the tuna with capers, anchovy, lemon and parsley ($13). I am sort of over tuna at this point, but I liked the idea of the neutral flavor of the fish getting shocked to life with anchovy and lemon, so in this case, I ordered it. Let me be the first to say, this is already one of my better decisions of 2004. Canora serves the tuna as a quartet, each preparation set on opposite corners of a fat, square plate. On the upper left was a round circle of finely minced ruby red tuna topped with crispy fried capers. On the lower left, a thin, rosy plank of tuna, topped with marinated white anchovies, a bright assertive partner, giving the tuna a good jolt of brininess. On the bottom right was a nice hunk of olive oil poached tuna, topped with a classic sauce typically used in vitello tonnato. And on the upper right, a lush dice of tuna, a sort of basic black and white dish, brought into vivid Technicolor by a jolt of preserved lemon. Nice. Each version took tuna in a different direction, each style a new experience for the mouth, which is such a fun and delicious way to eat. Canora is hitting his stride and attention should be paid.

Before I leave the subject of Hearth, allow me to discuss pastry chef Lauren Dawson's spiced apple cider donuts. They are a wonderful pair of fried dough-cakes, served hot and covered in a sugar gloss, and they are simply delicious. Skip the ginger bread upside down cake because it's a dense, chewey mess. Seriously, it could induce choking. Stay away from it, and order a lot of donuts.

Hearth is at 646-602-1300, On the corner of East 12th Street at 1st Avenue.

Andrea Strong