Friday, June 1, 2012

Alison Eighteen Restaurant Serves Up Neighborhood Bistro Charm

Does the thought of another celebrity restaurant leave a less than glitterati exhaustion?
Does another heart palpitating focus on the personality, the architect, the décor, or the Twitter “feed” – rather than the food on the plate - cook up a yearning for a more simple time when restaurant dining was not a pilot for reality TV?

Then Alison Eighteen restaurant on 18th Street is an oasis – a return to that time when the sum was greater than the parts. 
If when perusing the bistro menu it all seems a bit like a dining dream from the era of New York Times’ food critic William Grimes – it is. 
Alison Eighteen is like finding your high school sweetheart – and falling in love all over again.

The restaurant is the latest incarnation of restaurateur, Alison Price Becker  -- her previous multi-stared dining establishment, Alison on Dominick – was a classic, sophisticated, destination for romantics and business diners who could count on the ambiance and consistent food quality to impress and delight.
Alison Price Becker, Managing Partner, Alison Eighteen

Including the location-as-name, not much has changed.  In a reprisal of a role she has played well, Alison continues to reign over her culinary domain in the tradition of legendary maître d’s and owners of decades gone by-- and well, Alison herself who set a benchmark for hospitality.  Take that Danny Meyer!
She is not a celebrity chef. She doesn’t employ one in the kitchen – although executive chef Robert Gurvich knows his way around the kitchen as well as any Top Chef. 
Allison enjoys attending to her guests and managing the dining experience.

The ambience is deliberate, calculated to vanish the work and stress of dining (take pictures! Tweet! Share!) and puts the bliss of eating and enjoying conversation while sitting on a lush banquette surrounded by beauty lighting and urbane design.  

The whimsical Payton Cosell Turner toile-like wallpaper are line drawing that not unlike a Hirschfield’s Nina, whisper the moniker, “Alison,” lest one forget where they are and who they are guests of.  

The evening I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Alison Eighteen with a special guest from the City of Angels, Joni Saphir, the restaurant was full, but didn’t feel like the ber-hip L train. 
One could be seen or feel the privacy of retreat at one’s table.

Alison herself stopped by to talk.  “For our clients, the restaurant is like coming home,” she noted. “I am so blessed,” she smiled.  “I can’t tell you how much I love the people – seeing old faces – lots of former clients have returned.”

When asked how Alison came to be on 18, she told her story since closing Alison on Dominick.  Many might be surprised to learn she never got out of the restaurant business when she got out of Manhattan; rather she was consulting, owned and managed a trinity of restaurants in the Hamptons, including Alison by the Beach and Alison Restaurant and the Maidstone Inn; did product development and worked with her now-partners, Michael Namer and Gary Spindler to develop the space she now occupies. Originally, the space was meant to be a hotel.  Grinning conspiratorially, she recalls asking them: “You want me to put Alison in the space, don’t you?”

“It was time,” she concluded.

Here she remains devoted to a neighborhood clientele – luring diners from the Flatiron area as well as the Village and beyond.
She remarks that she is proud of the dining scene. “The atmosphere is designed to please you, to make you relax.” 
The timeless elegance does just that.
Her goal is to provide the neighborhood restaurant that customers can fall into – just stop in for a drink at the bar or a meal there  -- or in the glamorous dining room.
They also serve breakfast, lunch, brunch and take out, or as they refer to it: the “Kiosk to Go Menu” with bakery, charcuterie, and cheese.

And with 20% off drinks and complimentary nibbles (who says “nibbles” these days?!) served daily from 4:30 to 6:30 pm, Alison on Eighteen is sure to be the meet-up restaurant of choice.
The names alone will seduce, grouped in categories such as: Delicate Debauchery, Sultry & Seasonal, with fresh, seasonal herbs and spirits.  Dare to resist.  

They also do parties and catering for custom dining occasions, with an ability to serve up to 150 guests.

The bistro boasts a rotisserie that, along with Chef Robert’s spices and sauces, serves up delicious, slow-cooked meats.  The lamb was superb.  
The market-driven menu changes with the seasons.  The red peppers with chilies appetizer was tasty for two. Alison knows her way around the waters of Long Island, so be
sure to try the Long Island black bass with artichokes, cockles (love saying that!), cannellini beans & chorizo.

The wine list is diminutive but balanced.  Here’s to a more extended list with more reasonably priced wine selections to match up to the superb menu offerings.  Dinner was finished off with a nice glass of 20-year old Fonseca port, fresh espresso and a toast to the return of Alison.

The Zen of “simple” is not easy.

Welcome home, Alison.

There is a lot going on at Alison Eighteen.
Hours are:
The Kiosk is open from 8am to closing
Lunch: Mon-Fri: 12pm to 3pm
Dinner: Sun-Thurs: 6pm to 11pm, Fri-Sat: 6pm to 11:30pm

Brunch: Sat and Sun: 11am to 3pm

Alison Eighteen is located at 15 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011
212-366-1818  (Don’t you just love her attention to detail? Even the phone number trills “18!” 
Plus they answer the phone and don’t play those reservation games many restaurants do where the script goes like “Let me see, I have 5pm or 11pm open,” only to learn they in fact have many seats available…

No comments:

Post a Comment