Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner and Wallsé have been in the very west village for almost as long as I can remember—seems like going on 20 years. It enjoys a very good reputation as do other outposts including one in the Neue Galerie that attracts afternoon visitors who enjoy coffee and some of the best desserts in New York.
I was naturally interested in checking out their expanded wine bar and restaurant curiously called Upholstery Store Food and Wine, partly due to their predecessor in the space. I visited recently on a quiet Tuesday night which turned out to be more interesting than I had expected.
Shortly after sitting down and meeting my friend Paul Neuman, of Neuman’s Kitchen catering, a gentleman came to the table and asked if he could ask us a few questions. We said sure but the first one was: is it ok to use us in a column in the New York Times called At the Table. I did not know of the column that appears on Sundays in the Metropolitan section. In it, they profile two people eating out, often at a new restaurant, and speak a bit about them, why they came and what they are eating. Sure enough on Sunday Feb. 15 there we were, each getting a bit of publicity—which was a good thing in both our cases. I will now be looking out for this in the Metropolitan section. (Previously I had overlooked it since I read the Times online and don’t always find my way that deep inside.)
Dinner was multi-coursed and well presented, as well as enthusiastically served. We did start with “Two Oysters” in four different ways, each $7 for a pair. Yes, the real way to eat oysters is with very little distraction, but in this case the presentation was impressive, a bit over the top and it made for four very interesting bites to start the meal with. The oyster combos included passion fruit and seaweed, cucumber and mint and went beyond to uni and caviar.
We followed that with the Lobster Roll and Tuna Ceviche with Blood Oranges and Wasabi Tuile, both were good, neither overly stood out as outstanding. We continued with two items from the “Hot” section of the menu, and they were Shrimp Noodle and Venison. The first was a non-ramen take on the ramen craze, it was again beautifully presented, but was a relatively small portion of a shrimp noodle soup with a “small” egg in it. The venison, a very artfully constructed plate, was tender and rich tasting with a nice mixture of mushrooms and blackberries. We also had the caraway rolls and brussels sprouts.
Started and running for a while as a wine bar before expanding to serve food very recently, wine is taken seriously there. Many are available by the glass as well as other libations including some good beers. Desserts for us included a Chocolate Pot de Creme, an Almond Tart, and a Baked Apple with goat cheese. The apple in particular stood out. It was a half apple, not a big portion—but a beautifully baked half apple that was gently and nicely spiced with a side smear of a soft and tangy goat cheese.
The restaurant has a casual weeknight sort of feel about it; it is off the beaten track and the space is a bit awkward, with a wall separating two halves of the restaurant- bar. I had hoped for a more casual feel in the menu and maybe more of an Austrian flavor similar to its big brother around the corner. We were certainly well looked after, in part because we were chosen by the restaurant for the New York Times piece. The menu is hard to pin down, it is a little bit fussy with coordinating prices and yet it has a snack type quality about it with its cold, hot, cheese and snack sections—which was more what I was hoping for.
Upholstery Store Food and Wine.
713 Washington Street.
. http://kg-ny.com/the-upholstery-store .