After a long week–i think at this point we’re both pretty tuckered out–Steve and I headed out for a wonderful dinner after seeing the Off-Broadway performance of Unnatural Acts at the Classic Stage Company. We chose to stay in the East Vilage and visit Apiary, a restaurant located near 3rd Ave and 11th Street. Headed by Scott Bryan–Executive Chef of Veritas fame–the restaurant was a favorite of Steve’s before this visit. It was my first time visiting Apiary, but I don’t think it will be my last.

Steve describes the room wonderfully: The room at Apiary has many suggestions of “the hive.”  Whether the buzz of guests, or the wall sculptires that bring to mind a honey comb, or the the many layered, hive-like elements in the dining area, the references to the restaurant’s name are always close at hand.  The tones of gray and white are warmed by dark wood elements, and the room is softly lit by large and casual lamp shades hanging from the celiling and imprinted with images of more formal chandeliers, and wall sconces.  The room is small, but not cramped, and the atmosphere is upscale casual and comfortable.  Unfortunately, the aforementioned buzz can sometimes be more like a din, as was the case late on Friday evening when we were there, but despite the occasional intrusion of a wail or laugh coming from another table, Erik and I could hear each other just fine across the table.

Walking into Apiary after the show was much like walking into an actual bee hive, i imagine. It was bustling with life and pleasantly loud. The decor, albeit fairly modern, was inviting, and the chandelier accents were a playful nod toward some classic elegance—definitely something we both appreciated.

Upon the first look at the menu, I was really quite pleased. Though I don’t claim to have a favorite “type” of food, inventive American cuisine with a touch of ethnic flavor always shouts out to me. The menu was balanced and, with regards to printing and design, very aesthetically pleasing. I also noticed that Apiary has a “no corkage” night on mondays as well as a Sun/Tue-Thu 3-course Prix Fixe menu for $35–which is quite the bargain

Steve and I were both quite hungry after the theatre, we both chose three courses from the menu. I started with the asparagus salad. This dish was quite the winner for those of us who are vegetable lovers. The sweet asparagus and spring peas balanced perfectly with a salty Peccorino and fresh herbs. The cherry tomatoes on the plate, even though they were a nice color balance to the green of the salad, were a bit unnecessary for me. I don’t think it added much to the salad–Steve noted that they were left a bit lonely on the plate. Steve chose a chilled corn veloute which was outstanding. The chorizo oil was a welcome spice to the velvety soup, which was presented in a large bowl with a confetti of colors atop a cool beige. The flavors seemed to open up and evolve with each bite–it was a real treat.

My only complaint–and it’s a small one–was the bread at Apiary. I just can’t get excited over sliced french bread anymore. Unless it has been pulled from the oven to the table, i’m a bit let down by a simple bread that isn’t artfully executed.

For an entree, we both chose a roasted monkfish. Here’s what we had to say about it.

Erik: The monkfish was outstanding. i really love saffron, so the idea of a roasted fish over a bed of roasted vegetables and fregola was set over the top by a saffron and shellfish stock. The fish was cooked perfectly and the fregola salad, albeit having a bit more oil than i would normally like, was really quite delicious. The saffron and seafood “essence” really sent me over the top. It was a fabulous dish

Steve:The texture of the monk fish was perfect….providing enough resistance so as to live up to its oft-made comparison to lobster, but not at all chewy or tough.  The accompanying sauce, with its tomato base and saffron shellfish essence, evokes the taste of the Mediterranean, while small dice of zucchini provides texture and color.  The monkfish is accompanied by the Sardinian pasta called fregola, similar to cous cous, but larger, more toothsome, and with a toasted quality.  Delicious on its own, it also serves as a great vehicle for the sauce, and ties together the entire dish.

Dessert was a shared course of a peach tarte tatin, Served with a creme fraiche ice cream, it was really a delicious way to end the meal. Though the tart was a bit different than i had hoped for–the crust was much more flaky and “puffed up” than  was used to–it was lighter and fresher as well. It paired well with a cup of black coffee: my idea to the perfect end of a meal.

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