In a city as massive as New York, it’s tempting for a new restaurant trying to generate some buzz to go big — to max out space, squeeze out a pricey menu and amp up the pretentiousness.
The minds behind Adalya are allowing fine cuisine, a great location and word of mouth to fill its tables. Sitting a couple blocks from Union Square on Irving Place in the heart of Gramercy, the restaurant sits in prime, yet accessible real estate enjoying a steady pedestrian flow of young professionals, successful locals and the occasional tourist couples.
From the moment you walk in the door, it’s clear that the Adalya atmosphere is set on proper, yet understated. A long, well-stocked bar runs along the first half of the restaurant, serving up boisterous conversation from some of New York’s hipper citizens. A few tall tables line up along the opposite wall, while he back half of the restaurant offers a little calmer atmosphere and bit more conversational intimacy. There’s a small amount of shared outdoor seating for the warmer weather months.
The black clad staff buzzes between bar, kitchen and diners, while the chef staff checks in on the restaurant floor often. The entire team manages to be attentive without hovering or ratcheting up the pretentiousness.
Once settled in, diners should turn directly to the devoted cocktail menu. I recommend the apple brandy themed Sleeping Car or the smoky, Mescal-driven Cellar Door.
Over the drinks, visitors can enjoy starters (Small Plates) locally sourced whenever possible. The top option is the perfectly prepared and richly seasons Octopus, but the Brussel Sprouts and the Calamari also fit the bill.
For the entries (Large Plates), the Adalya kitchen maintains a very small menu favoring fresh seafood prepared with Mediterranean flare. The Codfish and Striped Bass were in the sea not too long before they arrived on the plate, while the special of that particular night – Pacific Razor Clams – were flown in that day and selected by the chef staff.
While seafood is a specialty of the house, Hanger Steak with Fresh Garlic is cooked to order with just enough rich preparation to bring out the flavor of the meat. If there was a minor quibble on the meat dishes, they relied just a little too much on its oil seasoning — an unnecessary choice considering the fine quality of the meat.
For dessert, the Flourless Chocolate Tart pairs well with coffee. However, the delicate Rosemary Olive Oil Loaf with Pistachio Gelato is a unique creation and worth a trip to Adalya all on its own.
Judging by the crowd on the scene that particular Thursday night, the word of mouth on Adalya is good and getting around New York quickly. While there wasn’t a line out the door, there was a full house at the tables and a happy crowd solving all of the world’s problems at the bar. If the restaurant maintains its very focused menu and its warm ambiance, Adalya will do just fine.