Are you looking for somewhere different to try, but aren’t overly concerned with price? Somewhere that is lively, but also manages to be calm enough for you to converse with your dining companion without shouting? Then definitely try The House.
Located just Northeast of Union Square, The House is easily accessible from a wide variety of subway lines. I admit that I’ve walked by this beautiful three story building many times without noticing it. Formerly a carriage house, there’s a small outdoor seating area, a nice sized bar (which includes several tables), and finally, the cozy main dining room located upstairs.
The House has an extensive wine list with many reasonable selections for a restaurant of this caliber. Wines are available in either full bottle, half bottle, or a quarter of a liter (quartino). At roughly a glass and a half, the quartino is a good value for the price. The Chenin Blanc and Vermentino were excellent, as was the Pinot Bianco Kastelaz. Not a wine drinker? They have craft beers from eight countries as alternatives.
The menu is, in a word, eclectic. Appetizers range from the Mediterranean staples of hummus and baba ghanoush to foie gras, costing anywhere from $12-$22 (excluding the raw bar items, which were at market price). The “Duck 3 Ways” (confit, smoked breast, foie gras mousse) was excellent. Having previously not been a big fan of duck (typically finding it too greasy and difficult to chew at times), I was impressed by how well executed it was. My favorite were the slices of the smoked breast, which were thin and flavorful.
Also delicious were the roasted littleneck clams and East Coast oysters, which were perfectly offset by the accompanying chorizo sherry reduction. The spiciness of the chorizo added a much-appreciated accent to the fishiness of the clams and oysters, and was definitely my favorite appetizer.
The peekytoe crab thermidor “mac & cheese” was, to this Southern native, a loose interpretation of mac & cheese. The cheese sauce was very light, and the crab blended in completely (as opposed to the chunky presentation that I’ve seen at other restaurants). However, the subtlety worked well here.
The entree section of the menu highlights a rotation of rotisserie selections, many of which were preparations of Amish organic chicken. The main courses ranged from $16 to a high of $29 for their seared rack of lamb. I tried Thursday’s rotisserie special, which was a sirloin of Australian Lamb paired with a cucumber yogurt sauce. The lamb was tender, and slightly pink in the middle. The meat tasted fine solo, but took on a whole new flavor when combined with the yogurt sauce.
The House doesn’t have a patisserie chef, so the dessert menu was a delightful compilation of popular sweets from several local restaurants. The triple mousse cake from Black Hound Bakery was a small, round mousse that was lightly dusted with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce, and accompanied by a few berries. The mousse was light, but its chocolate flavor was unmistakeable.
The big surprise of the night, however, was Lady M’s chestnut mille crepe. With its soft texture and lightly sweetened pastry cream, it did something I didn’t think possible: it managed to trump the chocolate mousse. The crepe layers were thin but noticeable, and the pastry cream’s subtle chestnut flavor distinguished it from other similar dishes I’ve tried.
Overall, The House provide excellent service, ambiance and a refreshing mix of options for those willing to expand outside of their comfort zone.
The House – 121 E. 17th Street – 212.353.2121