5 King Street
New York, New York 10012
Contact | 212.235.7133
Charlie Bird is a striking cocaphony of artisty that refuses to pigeonhole itself into a single culinary category. It is as local as it is worldly, as traditional as it is original. It is where the modern literati would meet if they still gathered for nightly discussions as the Picassos and Hemingways did in the back alley bars of Paris in the 1920s.
A sleek outer black shell masks its rustic wooden panelled walls and leather-lined chairs. A hint of its boisterous side comes through in a set of bright yellow booths and old-school stereo artwork, and it isn’t until you’re handed the menu that you get a visual taste of what this place is all about.
A loud, in-your-face menu painted as bright as a tropical bird houses a list of entrees just as unapologetically bold, taking the familiar and throwing in curveballs. Peanuts in the charred Brussels sprouts were my personal favorite that gives it this deeply intense earthiness that had me treating it like a main course.
Then there was the escarole salad, which if you had your eyes closed tasted more like a bowl of anchovies — a good thing. They could work on the visual aspect of the dish, but know you’re in for heavy kicks of fish, parmigiano and tangy lemon.
The hazelnuts in the poached duck egg polenta dish was another twist, melting in with the creamy polenta and crispy duck skin. And perhaps my happiest find that afternoon was the Kidney Punch juice — blood red from the beets, sweet from the orange, perfected with ginger and turmeric. I’ve been making it at home ever since.
The aggressive nature of the entrees means they’re a bit heavy on the grease, so I’d err toward underodering than over — not that the grease has an uncomfortable presence. There is a feel of experimentation in the air, but one that still give a nod to tradition that will leave you simutaleously satisfied and wishing for more.