It had been less than a week since they opened the doors of this casual, remarkably inexpensive, ingredient-obsessed tavern, and Peter Hoffman and crew (almost) totally nailed it—the second time this season a brand new restaurant has blown me away. Really, even though I ordered four things, this was the kind of meal that I didn't want to fill me, just so I could try something else. I can't wait to go back, this time with daughters in tow. So I can eat off their plates, too.
The room is pretty in a rustic kind of way, I guess: antique farm implements hanging on the wall; metal toy truck filled with garlic bulbs; unfinished wood tables, with paper menus doubling as place mats, etc.. But for me, the food is the thing here, and the thing is very very good. I started with Red Maine Shrimp and Bacon Beignets (because, really, how could you not), four or five deep fried, crispy/doughy creations stuffed with a garlicky surf-n-turf mash, nicely paired with an intense sweet chili sauce. Basically, an excellent excuse to eat donuts for dinner.
The "From the Garden" section is the menu's lengthiest and most tempting. Any number of the ten choices sounded great, but in the end I opted for the Shaved Fennel and Pumpkin, and it was amazing: the veggies bright and lively, the creamy lemon turmeric vinaigrette a beautiful complement. Then it was on to "The Core", and the House Made Pork Sausage—spicy, dry, delicious, with just a hint of maybe cinnamon—on a bed of sweet and vinegary cabbage slaw.
The only mistake of the evening? Instead of ordering another Garden dish, I got dessert. Susan's Fall Fruit Pie turned out to be an uninspiring slice of cold apple, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream... which, because the pie was so not-warmed, just sat there, being a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Next time: vegetables for dessert, too!
Back Forty is located on Avenue B between 12th and 11th Streets. I arrived at 6:00 on a rainy Wednesday evening and, unsurprisingly, was the only one there for most of my meal. Given how good this is, that may be the last time the place will ever be empty, ever. Perhaps out of boredom, my server approached me at least six times to ask how I was enjoying my dinner... each time just as I had put food into my mouth (because when you're dining alone, what else are you going to be doing?) so I had to do that awkward nod, grunt and smile thing.