A neighborhood restaurant for the non-neighborhood that is Battery Park City. "Regulars" at North End Grill tend to be Wall Street VPs having a power lunch or a team dinner, but if you happen to be down in the too new, too shiny, slightly souless and anonymous urban necropolis that is this area of lower Manhattan, there is no better place to dine.
For most people who live on the island of Manhattan, Battery Park can feel like a suburb. There is a lot of grassy space between tall, quiet complexes of apartments and condos, there are kids playing Little League in the parks on the weekend, and there is even a mall that anchors the area and frames it against the water. And when you live in the numbered streets, it can feel really, really far away, isolated by towering, faceless behemoths of buildings that harbor most of the power and financial capital in the city.
Here lies North End Grill, Danny Meyer’s contemporary American grill tucked into the ground floor of a sleek hotel around the corner from the mothership that is the Goldman Sachs headquarters. Here is a slightly friendlier, more comfortable space that sympathizes and agrees with its corporate clientele while providing an authentically enjoyable experience for the residents of this strangely suburban office park in the city.
As a result, the food is very good, everything is a little expensive, the people around you are powerful, and the staff is oh-so-kind.
The better dishes in the modern, chic space tend to be those that are seafood-focused, but chef Eric Korsh uses an imaginative hand coupled with classic French techniques to enliven each plate. The Charred Grilled Octopus Salad with fingerling potatoes, string beans, and white anchovies was creamy and succulent, but not without bites of fishy saltiness from the small, lovely anchovies. While the temperature of the beans was a little too cold and undercooked for my liking, the octopus itself was plump and perfect.
The Black Bass with thumbelina carrots, fava beans, pearl onions, and turnips was dressed in a light but rich, buttery sauce, and might be the standout of the seafood plates. The skin was salty, seared, and crispy, almost hovering over an immacuately cooked piece of delicate, tender fish. Chef Korsh also reveals a great deal of his dexterity in using a wood grill with the Duck Breast, seared and crispy with rich charcoal flavor that is then balanced by light beet greens and bright grapefruit.
The space itself is quite large, and some tables are evidently much better than others, particularly those that are relegated to a back wall by the water station. Yet North End Grill is still delivering an important menu to a corner of the city that suffers from a lack of fine dining options. It is a restaurant that will educate and please the wealthy, powerful clientele working nearby, while somehow dressing itself as appropriate for family dinners on weeknights as well. And in fact, that’s what this neighborhood is all about.