There are very few Manhattan restaurants where I go back repeatedly. Don’t get me wrong, there are many fabulous restaurants that I would love to eat at over and over again if money and availability was no object. However, it is truly rare to find a restaurant where the food is amazing, moderately priced, and not too busy to accept my reservation just half an hour beforehand on a Thursday night!
Tucked into a quiet corner of the West Village is Commerce, a restaurant serving New American cuisine and decorated like a Parisian bistro. Always loud and vibrant, the restaurant is quintessential West Village hip. Originally opened in the spring of 2008, it is by no means fresh, but after numerous repeat visits, I can happily report it has stood the test of time. I still distinctly remember my first visit. The dinner was memorable for several reasons. Firstly, our dinner party was late by almost 2 hours and yet because they were just opening they held our table! We felt so bad we must have drank a case of wine between the six of us and ordered so much food that the chef himself came out to meet us thinking we were food critics. Then having learned that we were just a bunch of drunk merrymakers with no connection whatsoever to the food industry his enthusiasm waned. However, before he hastily retreated to his kitchen, we all cheered a shot of port together on the house–a fitting end to an unforgettable meal and experience.
The roasted sweet potato tortelloni is one of my favorite dishes at Commerce and in NYC
The first dinner where we ordered the menu aside, there is one thing on the menu that I get every single time because it is simply sublime. If there was one attribute that distinguish the food at Commerce is the masterful skill of blending sweet and savory flavors. My single favorite dish at Commerce is roasted sweet potato tortelloni. In fact, I would even say this is one of my top five favorite dishes in all of NYC. It is the perfect marriage of sweetness (provided by a glaze of hazelnuts and pomegranate) and savory (the sweet potato filling of the tortelloni). The little bite size pieces of pasta simply burst with deep umami intermixed with layer of subtle sweetness. Yet throughout the taste explosion, the dish remains balanced which is a very difficult feat to pull off. It is a truly memorable dish that I could eat everyday.
Roasted Sweet Potato Tortelloni with hazelnuts, pomegranate & beurre noisette
Plenty of offal and solid New American style pasta on the menu (and don’t skimp on the breadbasket)
Outside of my favorite dish, the rest of the menu is also packed with deliciousness. Firstly, the breadbasket is always served piping hot with a variety of different flavored breads baked in house – always a good sign of a restaurant not willing to cut corners. All the pastas are also made fresh in house and cooked to a wonderfully chewy al dente. While nothing spectacular, they are definitely tasty and dependable to satisfy any cravings. There is plenty of offal on the menu from the lamb offal degustation to the ragu of odd things (oxtail, trotters, tripe). Furthermore, Chef Moore regularly updates his menu with fresh seasonal ingredients. For example earlier this spring, the chef created a number of appetizer specials based around fresh ramps.
Spring Vegetable Fricassee with truffle & poached egg
Get comfortable and order dishes of the “to share” section of the menu
However, my favorite part of the menu is the things to share section. This section is a family style eater’s dream. The whole roasted chicken and duck for two are both amazing…cooked to a perfect juicy consistency every time I have ordered it. Part of the reason may be the amazing oven in the kitchen at Commerce. Costing over $100,000, the stainless steel oven is custom built and lined with bricks and judging from the results, controls heat perfectly! A porterhouse to share for two exhibits the signature Harold Moore touch of savory and sweet as it is served with a sweet yet balanced red wine and shallots sauce. Finally, there is the leg of lamb for three – for truly epic feasts.
I am hesitant to advertise this gem of a restaurant, but what the heck – no one reads this blog anyways ha! If you go, just do not order the last tortelloni in case I am also stopping by later that night!