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Eaters' Journal 8/20/16: Perla Cafe, Her Name Is Han, Felidia, The Four Horsemen, and More

Field notes from Eater editors about recent meals around New York City

Perla Café: It was something of a shock when Perla pulled up the tent poles on quaint Minetta Lane and relocated to a former sports bar in the West Village, right across the street from two other Gabe Stulman enterprises — Fedora and Bar Sardine. Is Stulman circling the wagons? Or is the idea that, if you find yourself hungry at the paradoxical corner of West 10th and West 4th, you’re likely to pick a Gabe Stulman restaurant simply because there are so many within your line of sight?

The new location of Perla remains mobbed in the evening, though maybe not quite as mobbed as when it was a few blocks southeast. Now the place is open for lunch, and a friend and I gave it a try. The restaurant was nearly empty, decorated in a plainish sort of way in shades of medium brown, with a big, plush banquette running along one side of the room, upon which we perched as the bartender/waiter hastened up to us. The service was jovial.

And the food was "modern Italian" as the restaurant’s website has it, with a menu divided into four sections, half of them small plates. Another section was devoted to lunch-y mains, while a fourth presented pastas. We split an octopus appetizers ("too soft," my friend complained) — thick tentacles with turnips and tarragon napped with a caper aioli that might have been plain tartar sauce. Next a plate of agnolotti that really did look like little sheep, in a buttery sauce that could have been perfect save for the inclusion of what tasted like canned green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico, imparting a sour flavor. The burger we shared as a third course was very nice, topped with lots of molten cheese and a sweet pepper relish. Lunch for two, with a glass of rose apiece: $112. — Robert Sietsema


Her Name Is Han: This is the kind of restaurant you want to tell all your friends about. Her Name is Han looks like a "modern" Korean restaurant, or whatever we’re calling minimalistic design, rustic tables, and Pinterest-ready bowls these days, and the menu is bound and extremely long, partly because every page explains its menu with big photos. But the food is….really, really comforting? And the portion sizes are normal! Like, you order an appetizer and an entree, and then you are really full — that kind of normal. Service starts with generous helpings of banchan, including a fragrant shiitake mushroom one with a smattering of green onions that was very addictive. We ordered fried bulgogi, which came out as one big piece that tore aport into tender bites with crisp, charred edges. A baby octopus appetizer looked like it might be difficult to chew but was actually quite delicate, with a lovely sweet vinegar dressing. Everything we ate was not just good but winners. The space felt trendyish, but the food felt homey, and I already want to go back to tackle the rest of that long menu. — Serena Dai


[Felidia by Nick Solares]

Felidia: This might not be the trendiest restaurant these days, but both the clientele and staff seem to be aging with as much grace as one is afforded on the Upper East Side. Which means that you will find the perfect Negroni served to you by tuxedo-clad host Peppino, a fixture at the restaurant for decades. It means that wine director Jeff Taylor will guide you through the expansive Italian-heavy list without trying to sell you on a biodynamic wine from someplace you’ve never heard of. And it means that you will eat well-tempered Italian classics filtered through an Upper East Side palate from chef Fortunato Nicotra, himself a 20-year veteran of the restaurant. (Fun fact: Sushi Nakazawa’s Alessandro Borgognone’s first job outside of his family’s restaurant was here many years ago. He credits it with informing his sensibility for hospitality.)

The pantomime of service is in full effect at Felidia with a retinue of captains and sommeliers and waiters and bus boys scurrying to and fro. And then there is Peppino, prim and proper in his pressed grey tux, doling out martinis and plates of cacio e pere — pear and pecorino ravioli with black pepper, a must-have dish — that he finishes off tableside.

But I am getting ahead of myself. You should get the cacio e pere, but get the tripe first. It is the best in the city. Get it even if you think that you don’t like tripe because it will change your mind. It comes torn into tender chunks, perfectly cooked to a spongy-but-meaty consistency with clean flavors. Served with tomato sauce and a quartered disk of fried polenta, it is the simplest dish on the menu, but also the most soulful.

There is also a beef carpaccio and tartare combination with black truffles and caviar and lots of other expensive stuff on it. It's great too, but at $28 as an appetizer, it had better be. It is also $2 more expensive that the calves liver over polenta & onion gratin, which is the second most soulful thing on the menu. If you don’t like liver, this isn’t going to change your mind — it has the pronounced minerality and pasty texture that is inherent to the cut. But if you do like liver, you won’t be disappointed.Nick Solares


Wolfnights and Breads Bakery: I managed to have two cauliflower sandwiches in one week (in the span of 16 hours, actually). The first was at Wolfnights (ok, yes, technically a wrap), a place I have been to a handful of times well past midnight looking to soak up margaritas. One weeknight, sober, I ordered the healthier(?) option called the Mowgli wrap. It's charred cauliflower, pickled pineapples, barbecue chips, and a surprisingly spicy sage aioli. This is the beauty of any Wolfnights wrap, always packed with so many textures and flavors. The wrap was a bit of a mess, but delicious nonetheless. I ordered, had it delivered, and ate it in 23 minutes. The following day I went to Breads Bakery where Serena lead me to the cauliflower sandwich. The vegetable is also charred here and pretty perfect. It's served with an incredibly fresh pesto that is stupid good. And even though it's not made to order, it tastes wonderfully fresh. — Patty Diez


The Four Horsemen: My first visit last Saturday was a slam dunk. At around 1:30 p.m. there were maybe two other tables, the dining room was full of light, and everyone was in a good mood. Great service, fun wines-by-the-glass list, and food that was more exciting than anything else I've had in Williamsburg or Greenpoint this year. The crispy potatoes and cucumber sandwich (basically a riff on a BLT) were standouts. I also love the weird wine festival posters and the row of obscure bottles along the wall. — Greg Morabito

Top photo: Perla Cafe by Nick Solares

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