By definition, the hearth is the floor of a fireplace, symbolic of one’s home and family. In food, Hearth is the cozy brick-lined restaurant that sits humbly at the intersection of 12th Street and 1st Avenue.

True to its denotation, the Hearth experience is comfortable and cozy from beginning to end. The tinted window and exposed brick makes you feel right at home. The warm glow and muted kitchen clamor take you away from the congested city. The subtle aromas floating up from each plate trigger memories of homecooked meals. And with every bite, you’ll realize just what fresh ingredients made to order really means.

Jay and I started off with the rock shrimp appetizer. Gently poached shrimp mixed in a light buttery sauce with a medley of crunchy mushroom, and fluffy gnocchi. The puzzle pieces of flavors worked off one another perfectly, culminating in a delicate farm-fresh consomme.

For our main courses, Jay and I both got fish. Jay the striped bass and I the Columbia River sturgeon. My slab of fish was extremely supple and paired really well with the velvety red beet spread. To the side, juicy slices of bright yellow beets topped with translucent orange roe. This firey plate is only a visual play off the hot colors, however, as it’s actually soothingly calm to the taste buds.

Jay’s striped bass was actually the more intense of the two. Tender flakes of fish slid right off into a shallow stew of baby clams. The base was a great complement to the neutral, but again fresh, bass. And the lightly charred skin added to the somewhat nutty profile.

To top it all off, we shared a side of gnocchi. I know I say this every time I have gnocchi (and I always mean it), but this time, it was by far the softest, most delicate handmade bowl of gnocchi I’ve ever had. Seasoned simply with sea salt, pepper, and butter, the fluffy globs of potato and wheat are made fresh daily. This would certainly be a must-try if you visit.

This overall experience reminded me of Mas Farmhouse in the West Village, expect with a little more spunk and a little more playfulness in its concepts and presentation. But it’s just as fresh, and one might say even slightly less stuffy. All put together, a real culinary contribution to the East Village.

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