The Writing Room
1703 Second Avenue, (between 88th and 89th Streets).
Fifty years since the original Elaine’s opened to droves of celebrities, screen writers, New York notables and locals alike, Upper East Side restaurateurs Michael & Susy Glick usher in a new wave for this booming neighborhood with the opening of The Writing Room. Studio Bohen founder Lindsey Bonime designed the restaurant, which seats 120 with an additional 20 at the bar. The design concept of The Writing Room, which includes an open kitchen flecked with subway tiles, will take diners back to a simpler time while paying specific homage to the former Elaine’s and the literary following the place inspired. Bonime utilized raw materials evoking both a vintage and industrial feel and restored the facade of the restaurant to resemble the Elaine’s exterior, complete with the famous awning that stretches out to 2nd Avenue, this time in a charcoal gray. The main dining room features reclaimed oak floors, walnut tables, rich leather banquettes accented by custom-made pendant lighting above, and textured red brick walls. A photo wall in this main room is adorned with about 150 framed photos of famous authors, vintage typewriters, and even some of Elaine’s in all it’s glory. Moving into the back room dubbed “The Study,” there’s an old school vibe with a modern edge. Vintage black and white tile floors meet the sleek fireplace and built in bookshelves teeming with 1,000+ books curated by Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books. Fabric panels on the wall behind the bar will be used as pin-up boards and guests are encouraged to add quotes, insights and notes, creating an ever-evolving work of literary art.
Keep your eye on the young Executive Chef Lucas Billheimer. He has an inventive mind, a deft hand with seasoning and is sure to become a super-star. (Chef Lucas is also that rarity: a chef that is “hands on” and was actually in the kitchen the night of our visit). Billheimer has spent years studying the rich history of regional American cuisine and has been applying his prowess and passion since the opening. Menu signatures have since been decided by the masses, including the signature a knockout Rotisserie Chicken and the crispy and juicy herb brined Fried Chicken, plated with terrific slaw and a fluffy biscuit. Homemade pastas have also become a must for the neighborhood regulars, especially the Ricotta Cavatelli teeming with rapini, artichokes, green garlic and nutty Pecorino.
Chef Billheimer is putting to good use his smoker and vertical rotisserie, churning out a Smoked Carrot & Beet Salad with toasted flax and pumpkin seeds, mint, lemon and maple yogurt and a rotating roster of roasted wonders including a steak house quality GRILLED BONE-IN 14OZ PRIME STRIP with Grilled Broccoli, Roasted Shallots and Garlic Herb Butter. Regulars clamor for the “knife and fork style” Baby Spinach Salad, with Garlic Croutons, Parmesan, a divine Smoked Trout Deviled Egg and a unique Smoked Caesar Dressing.
The star appetizer on our visit was a house made Charcuterie plate with fantastic home-cured pork and the best rillettes I’ve tasted outside of France. The grilled country bread (like all bread products, including a knockout parkerhouse version, created by Pastry Chef Andrea Bucheli) was delicious, as was the homemade beer-mustard.
While Chef Billheimer certainly throws his heart into taming any type of meat, the Steamed Lobster and Wild Clams with red potatoes and drawn butter and a Grilled Yellowfin Tuna with white asparagus, arugula and a lemon ginger vinaigrette are perfectly satisfying on the seafood front. From roasted meats to fresh Spring vegetables and delicate fish, the menu is a mouthwatering kaleidoscope of regional American cooking met with today’s farm to table sensibility. The Writing Room’s Pastry Chef Andrea Bucheli has created confections at some of the finest kitchens across the city, including Geoffrey Zakarian’s Country and Town restaurants, Olives by Todd English, and Le Cirque 2000 before joining Billheimer and the Glicks at Parlor Steakhouse in 2008.
Diners will start their meals with warm salt topped, pull apart Parker House Rolls and enjoy Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits with dinner, while the desserts will sweetly seduce right up to the end with Caramelized Rhubarb Rice Pudding with homemade crème fraîche ice cream, Creamsicle Pops dipped in chocolate and served with a warm hazelnut brownie, Cast Iron Local Peach Pie for the table and a playful throwback Funnel Cake, amped up with a zesty Meyer lemon mousse. The eclectic wine list features approximately 150 bottles ranging from American to New World vintages. A curated cocktail program dabbles in updated classics as well as new age concoctions, with a focus on homemade bitters, syrups, sodas, etc. “Johnny’s Gun” uses Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur for a spicy update to a classic margarita with Herradura Blanco, Grand Marnier, lime and a spiced sea salt rim while the “Up in Smoke” relies on the smoky essence of Montelobos Mezcal, grapefruit, simple syrup, lime, Aperol, Egg White and Rhubarb Bitters to liven the mood. The bar also features an extensive scotch and bourbon list in addition to locally crafted brews on tap and in bottles.
The classic Martini is well treated here, and there is an excellent wine by the glass program, offering two choices (3 or 6 ounces). The prices are fair and the product is fresh. By all means go for the miraculous red Italian masterpiece: Tenuta Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato Bolgheri ($10, $20 by the glass); $78 a bottle. Intense, rich, elegant and memorable.
Service is friendly, easy going and highly efficient. The Writing Room is a beautifully managed, professional restaurant for grownups who are not against have a bit of fun, excellent food in a convivial atmosphere at affordable prices. Highly recommended! Rating A+
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