Left Bank, 117 Perry Street; New York, NY 10014
Reviewed by Tess Sanders
Left Bank’s Iron roast split chicken farro risotto, local mushrooms, pecorino
West Village, New York
The winter of my fifth year I took ice skating lessons in Barrington, Illinois. It was not a hobby that stuck, and we moved to Pennsylvania the next summer. What I remember of those lessons is what followed after: the pan-fried chicken skin my mother would have waiting. Chicken skin crisping in a happy pile of its own fat—the sizzle warming the Midwest cold, softening the fluorescent lighting and granting the night an unparalleled sensory experience.
In the 20 years that followed I stopped eating meat. Last Friday night I experienced it again at Left Bank in the West Village. Olfactory memory is strong, but biting into a flavor not experienced in two decades is magical.
My first taste of Left Bank’s iron roast split chicken delivered the always-sought, rarely delivered pleasure of total comfort in food form. A key line from Left Bank’s manifesto is:
“we believe that happy animals are better than anything, and are committed to sourcing only humanely raised meat.” And it tastes like it. The chicken is succulent; its juice imparting fatty salty goodness.
And the skin! Crispy enough to savor because it demands a little tooth work. Its taste lingers on the tongue. I wasn’t prepared for it, having just experienced steak tartare for the first time in my life. It’s a testament to the perfection of the chicken and farro risotto that the grass fed steak tartare, seared potato gnocchi, and heirloom tomato salad are not the stars of this review.
Each was executed to perfection, by the way. The steak tartare as delicate as a dream, the gnocchi delivering robust potato flavor without losing any textural integrity: a golden potato pillow that melts on the tongue.
But the iron roast split chicken farro risotto, local mushrooms, and pecorino danced in my mouth long after I left the restaurant. The chicken fat and earthy mushrooms created a glaze that imbued every bite of farro. That fine grain absorbed the dish’s perfectly paired offerings without a second thought, as if they were all built for one another. Speaking of complementary flavors, the red wine our (fantastic) server recommended for the dish provided an ideal tart acidity to the soft, salty sweetness of the chicken and farro. It was among the best glasses of wine I’ve tasted—assertive in its profile without assaulting the mouth or puckering the lips—and like a fool I didn’t record its name.
I enjoyed this feast on the last Friday of the summer. And I’ve never been more excited for early darkness and imminent roasts to fatten me for the winter than I was after dining at Left Bank. I will return often to fortify myself against the New York winter.