Highpoint Bistro and Bar Brings Giggles of Delight With Presentations . . . But There’s Nothing Funny About the Kitchen, Which (At These Price-Points) is As Good As It Gets

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Highpoint

216 Seventh Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets in Chelsea.

Open for lunch (11.30 am to 3.00 pm ) and dinner from (5.00 pm to 10.30pm) daily from Sunday to Thursday and serve weekend brunch on Saturday & Sunday from11.30 to 4.00pm and dinner from 5.00pm to 11.30pm on Friday and Saturday.

For reservations, call 646-410-0120 or to browse the menu visit www.highpointbb.com.

There is nothing like a NY neighborhood restaurant. With intended exceptions, each has its own character and doesn’t travel (even a few blocks N, E, S or W). Chelsea restaurants are known for their casual feel, dependable food and lowish prices.  You might walk past this local addition with its minimalist decor. But don’t, You’d be making a huge mistake.

At its core, Highpoint aims to make dining fun again, at any point throughout the day. The food is playful, interactive, and creative; the ambiance is casual but cool, flexible (and affordable) enough to accommodate dinner, daytime lunch, coffee breaks and late night drinks with equal panache.

It starts with seasoned operators: born into a family of restaurateurs, the Singh brothers proved their talent early by turning their parents’ single successful venture in India into an empire of 23 establishments. Wanting to tap into the United States market, they teamed up with Preet Takhar (a local restaurateur from the United States) and formed Earthen Grill Inc. to open two restaurants in the tri-state area, including Raaz, a popular Indian eatery in Jersey City, before embarking on Highpoint, their foray into American cuisine in New York City. The same drive and determination that propelled them to mega successes in India and across the river now stands behind their latest pursuit—and it shows.

Perhaps their best decision was to give Phil Deffina. a stage for his passion and creativity, a result of years of inspiration under famed chef David Burke and at San Francisco’s much-loved 4-star restaurant, La Folie. By merging the laid-back casual cool of California cooking with the sophistication and cheekiness of New York culture, Deffina creates food that’s quintessentially, unpretentiously Modern American.

All appetizers are a hoot. Start with the Buffalo Chicken Lollipops—they may sound like wings by any other name, but they’ll be a good first surprise. Spiced chicken meatballs get wrapped in a crispy wonton skin and fried on a lollipop stick—finger food that doesn’t get your fingers dirty. They’re served with blue cheese fondue and spaghetti-cut pickled carrots, a blend of tangy, sweet and savory flavors that’s at once comforting and novel. On our visit, there was a special of Kobe Dogs, which arrived on a surrealistic metal tree, surrounded by winding fresh herbs that made our table gasp in amazement. (It may go on the menu so be aware).

highpoint Tuna Tartare Tacos

So it goes with the Tuna Tartare Tacos, whose inspiration goes more the Asian route than the Mexican. Fresh yellowfin gets marinated in chili and sesame oil for a subtle punch; then it’s packed into thin and crunchy taco shells with spicy mayo, avocado mousse and a sparkly, salty kick of tobiko. Another starter of flatbread pizza, perfect to share, is made with bread from a tandoor oven—it’s used to make much of the restaurant’s bread—and topped with smoky, slow roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a drizzle of basil oil resting in the center and offering it extra flavor is lemony dressed olive arugula and shallot salad. With all these dishes, there’s a sense of playfulness in merging the highbrow with the low, the familiar with the surprising—it’s the something that makes you feel at home without feeling like you might as well have made it at home.

Cold Noodles With Pond Prawns (Below)  may have disappeared by the time you visit, but I hope the  The “Iceburger” Salad, so named because it mocks a burger. The lettuce is sliced in half and stuffed with thick cut bacon, tomato, blue cheese, red onion filling. The bacon is freshly cook and the whole definitely represents more than the sum of its parts. Chelsea Chowder corn, chorizo, clams, potato dumpling  is beautifully sectioned in a large bowl and the heady broth is poured on tableside.

Cold Noodles with Pond Prawns_

Entrees follow suit, and range from handmade pastas to steak with polenta to vegan-friendly dishes, providing ample options for groups of picky eaters. Fettucini is made daily and topped with prosciutto meatballs and a hearty Sunday gravy—a real classic—while Steak au Poivre (Below) goes meatless highpoint watermelon steak by subbing in watermelon glazed with black peppercorns, vinegar and honey. A more composed vegan entrée than what’s normally available on omnivorous menus, the fruit takes a full-bodied, smoky char that strangely, and rather successfully, mimics that of a good steak. With a jicama slaw mixed with avocado, grapefruit essence, and slices of the pink citrus, it’s a summer BBQ fest that anyone—meat-eating or not—can get behind.

Seafood lovers can’t go wrong with the chef’s Seared Day Boat Scallops, (Below)highpoint Seared Dayboat Scallops sweet and perfectly cooked, plated with a delightfully smooth corn puree, strips of chorizo, and sautéed baby leeks. The surprise addition? Popcorn, which lends the dish texture and fun while playing off the corn that’s already present.

Our two favorites were the best “Under $20” Roasted Chicken on any NY restaurant menu. (*SEE RECIPE BELOW) Seawater brine lends a haunting taste, tenderness and moisture and the accompanying fingerling potatoes and sautéed spinach are delicious. Also, Stuffed Suckling Pig with charred Jersey peaches, celery root, frisée  and baby turnips is stuffed with succulent forcemeat and an exemplary rendition of this, often disappointing dish.

If all that isn’t enough, go family style by ordering sides for the table. Banana Fries served in a mini shopping cart are the lovechild of French fries and patacones, while Crazy Corn is served on the cob (grilled after being boiled) with cilantro, butter, lime and cotija cheese—Mexican “elote loco” with its own Highpoint style.

highpoint Creme Brulee Egglings

Dessert, perhaps as the most interactive part of the Highpoint experience, begins with a trio of crème brulee egglings. It is a favorite, in part because of its fun flavors—banana rum, raspberry and vanilla—but also because of its funky presentation. Inspired by the ingredient that’s the basis of any good custard, each one is piped into its own hollowed out eggshell and set on mini terracotta planters, a hilarious presentation that makes the dish as charming and fun as it is smooth and decadent.

highpoint Caramel Experiment

Tough as it may be to beat, it’s one-upped only by the Caramel Experiment, wherein a luscious caramel stream is poured onto a Himalayan salt slab, a constantly evolving flavor experience to be enjoyed with a comprehensive spread of fruit, popcorn, and assorted baked goods. It’s a testament to the fact that nearly anything sweet is made better with salted caramel.

Wine and cocktails add to the fun, with an emphasis on affordability that sees bottles priced in three tiers ($25, $35, and $45). We loved the Pinot Blanc Gustav Lorentz, 2009, from Alsace. Cocktails are designed and executed by up-and-coming mixologist Paul Huber, whose background spans some of the city’s well-known cocktail hotspots, such as Bar Milano, Pranna Lounge and ‘inoteca. They feature local ingredients, like the fresh plums mixed with pomegranate liquor, lemon juice, Cointreau, gin and absinthe in the Plum Crazy. Also popular is the Sunny Day in Chelsea, made with pink grapefruit vodka, elderflowers and honey.

Their is an air of warmth, friendliness and conviviality that is undeniable at Highpoint. Service, starts with a smile from manager Sean McCloskey and continues throughout the evening from the helpful staff. The ambiance encourages the same laid-back, fun-forward feel. Something about the space feels lived in, versatile, with lots of light by day and a welcoming glow by night. Comfortable seats and banquettes are perfect for a long visit with lots of laughs, while drop-down copper lamps by the bar add a touch of vintage coziness. The décor has New York written all over it, both literally and figuratively: black and white images of street signs and iconic buildings fill up the long, narrow dining area creating that local-comfy quality that evokes so many famous sitcom sets. Thankfully for us though, this one’s the real deal.

Copyright 2010 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved

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Roast Chicken Recipe:

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