Welcome to our latest feature/live event, Eater Test Kitchen (or, as its buzzed about on The Twitter, #eatertestkitchen). Every now and again, we'll invite chefs to drop by Eater HQ at 36 Cooper Square to show off what they're working on. We buy the food, they do the cooking, everyone eats, and the interns clean up the plates at the end. Win, win, win, win.
How better to kick off Eater Test Kitchen than with a visit from our beloved neighbors Sara Jenkins and her partner in crime, Sebastian Jaramillo The duo offered to show off what they're cooking up with for their soon-to-open East Village restaurant Porsena. A sister restaurant to porktastic hit Porchetta, Porsena will focus on pastas, salads, vegetables, plus a few mains. Jenkins says the menu will fluctuate depending on the seasons but that she wants to keep it relatively stable so that the clientele will have favorites to come back to.
The restaurant, which is located just a few doors down from McSorley's on East 7th Street, will open soon. (The latest: waiting on the gas to be turned on, the liquor license to come through, and a few construction punchlist items to get punched out, but the first week of October seems within reason. The menu will be completed once they get the gas on and try out a few more pasta options. Previous Eater coverage here.)
So what did Jenkins make this afternoon for Eater, our sister sites Curbed and Racked, and our officemates at Hard Candy Shell and Foursquare? A late summer heirloom tomato salad with Porchetta salt (the seasonings for the Porchetta that they grind down and sell by the tin)*; salad of radishes and cucumbers with feta, cilantro, and zatar; a three bean salad with some pretty amazing cranberry beans; rich pork ragu (aka Porchetta ragu) with imported dry artisanal pasta from Italy. File under: phenomenal.
Jenkins stressed that Porsena will use mostly dry pastas, as it's more in line with the "affordable" ethos of the restaurant. Per Jenkins: "Fresh pasta is more for special occasions. We might do a few here and there, but the majority of the menu will be dry pasta." And to that effect, Jenkins says she and her staff will be doing blind taste tests to decide which one is up to snuff. Apparently there's a super-old school guy out of Bensonhurst who has a great product, but whether he can keep up with their demand remains to be seen.
Stay tuned for more on Porsena as it approaches its debut—she also has a great interview on Fork in the Road.
Meantime, chefs who'd like to pay a visit to Eater Test Kitchen, shoot an email our way and let us know what you have in mind. Rest assured, we are all ears.
*Oh, that Porchetta salt was inspired by famed Italian butcher Dario Cecchini (remember him from Heat?). Jenkins was visiting him and saw that he was using a similar seasoning there. "All of my ideas come from Dario," she says.
—With help from Zachary Feldman
· All Porsena Coverage [~ENY~]
· All Sara Jenkins Coverage [~ENY~]