TWO’s new summer menu is corny … and tomato-y … and delicious. Chef Tom Van Lente treated the small group to a media dinner preview of the new American cuisine restaurant’s offerings for the most delicious season of the year. This corn and tomato lover was delighted.
The evening began at TWO’s cleaver-decorated bar. Yes, cleavers can be decor. As can large scales, fan trellises, and red doors. The overall effect is warm and rustic.
The drinks list includes a seasonal smash which, in honor of summer, was blueberry. I like me a smash and the inclusion of blueberries means it is a healthy alcoholic drink rich in anti-oxidants. Rarely can a drink that includes ginger beer go wrong; this one certainly doesn’t. I do wish the smash were served over crushed, not cubed, ice though, as crushed ice is more fun and festive.
Soon we sat and the food began to arrive. First, crostini with house made cheese curd, butter poached lobster, corn, basil, and tomato. There is nothing wrong with any of the individual components and together they are glorious. Next, a baked pastry crust topped with goat cheese, Nichols Farm tomato wedges, herbs, and olive oil. Proof (again) that great produce doesn’t need much dressing up.
And more cocktails, of course. The Flying Aces cocktail is lovely. The description includes Crème de Violet but leaves out the edible – and sweet! – flowers afloat in the coupe. Tasty and pretty. Kevin Doherty Special is a shim, a lower proof cocktail for the faint of heart, or those who want to be able to make it through a meal without getting sloppy. So enjoyable I didn’t even miss the proof. To make up for the shim, the Wet Hound, TWO’s full proof version of a greyhound with vodka, grapefruit, and mint. Mint just works in cocktails.
To balance the cocktails, more food. A bit non-traditional, red meat arrived before pasta or fish. When everything is so good, the “correct" order doesn’t matter. The Slagel Family Farm sirloin has been aged for 64 days before being served at the perfect medium rare with TWO’s elotes including pickled beets and queso fresco. The pickle-y goodness, a.k.a. acid, was a nice foil to the sweet corn and wonderfully tender meat.
The Alaskan halibut is perfectly cooked with a nice crust that shows the chef knows to get the pan piping hot and to leave the fish alone until the proteins release from the pan. The fish was served over … corn, this time creamed à la minute. The house made ricotta cavatelli with bacon, parmesan, and poached egg is rich and cooked to the right slight chewiness. This take on carbonara hits just right.
The pork porterhouse is a huge piece of meat atop cauliflower puree and topped by romanesco and more tomatoes. The meat is juicy and delicious and the vegetable components … well, fractals are just plain cool and, it turns out, yummy. All of the mains are good, if a bit aggressively salted.
Desserts at TWO are simple and straightforward. Maple doughnut topped by maple ice cream, a deconstructed blueberry pie, and “puppy chow.” The last was completely new to me, but I can understand why it’s so beloved. Rice Chex cereal with chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar is salty, sweet, crunchy, and habit forming.
I am impressed with TWO. The service is excellent, the food hearty, not fussy, and just good.