Best Restaurant Under the Radar - 2007
8 1/2 Restaurant
It's not as though nobody knows about this place. In fact the restaurant seems to be doing just fine. But with Bouley, Govind, Johnny V, and a near tidal wave of splashy debuts this past year, chef Jason McClain's 80-seat charmer (with more outdoor tables in front and back) seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Undeservedly so. The modern, Mediterranean-theme cuisine bristles with boldly assertive flavors, from Moroccan-spiced calamari spiked with Meyer lemon, to lamb carpaccio drizzled with banyuls syrup (a red Pyrenees wine), to entrees such as veal tenderloin rimmed in crisp Serrano ham, and pan-seared grouper pooled in wild mushroom and truffle broth. The amiable atmosphere at 8 1/2 makes dining here a personal and pleasurable experience though not an inexpensive one. Main courses run from the upper-twenty to mid-thirty-dollar range. Wines are marked up more modestly, and of the 80-plus selections, some thirty are available not just by the glass, but in three- or six-ounce pours. Check it out soon joints like this are never as good once the radar picks them up.