For the third year in a row, I’m going to attempt to eat every single item on Time Out New York’s annual 100 Best Dishes list. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100. Let the gluttony continue…
Most of the reviews for Hospoda warn that the portion sizes are quite small. I’ve been burned one too many times before at fancy restaurants in the city where I’ve spent lots of money and left hungrier than when I arrived. So since I was determined to not be the hungry fool one more time, I picked up a small appetizer before dinner at Hospoda. Luke’s Lobster has a location close by and a small lobster roll is the perfect start to any meal.
Hospoda was an odd looking place. It had an air of fine dining, an industrial Bohemian beer hall feeling, and wallpaper that hinted at modern gastronomy. It was all these things together and amazingly, they all worked. The food is elevated Eastern European. That makes me think of hearty meats and stews with pickled cabbage and lots and lots of beer. I was not disappointed here.
Before we even received water, we got an amuse bouche of a specific style of Pilsner Urquell (the only beer they serve here). It was a foamy, bready, creamy taste of the beer and left us craving an entire glass (I think that was the point). We also received complimentary steak tartare bites (fantastic) and rye bread generously slathered with cottage cheese and chives. We hadn’t ordered or paid for a thing yet and already this place was a winner.
The menu is only offered as a tasting (either $32 for two course, $45 for three, or $88 for seven) without any a la carte options. We chose the two course and were able to pick different dishes for sharing. Everything we tried was delicious, with some things standing out.
We started with an interesting beet salad, with sour cream and a subtle beer jelly. It was good, but not as interesting as expected. The squab was also quite tasty with rich dark flavors coming from the chestnut puree and chocolate sauce. It was not as sweet as it sounded and worked quite well.
It was the last two dishes that really made me swoon. The Time Out list item was the Smoked Beef Tongue, which was fabulous. The only thing that may put anybody off was the texture, which was soft, bready and almost gelatin like. The meat itself was incredibly smoky and tender. I didn’t even have to chew this thing as it fell apart as soon as it touched my lips. The yellow pea puree was a nice light change from the expected mashed potatoes and the pickled mushrooms added some brightness to the rich, decadent sauce.
And as good as the tongue was (that’s what she said, right?), the lamb leg was even better. It was served in two parts: tender slices and braised pulled pieces. This tasted like the best stew I’ve ever had. The lamb reminded me of grandma (even though my grandmother never cooked) with warming, comforting flavors. The carrots were thick and sweet with a paltry few leaves of brussels sprouts (my only minor quibble) and a wonderful thyme glacé.
I really loved everything about this place. And I was quite happy with the portion size. Turns out my lobster roll appertif was probably unnecessary. And I still wish I had ordered more food at Hospoda.
Would Hospoda’s Beef Tongue make my Top 100 of the year? The heavenly lamb leg will, but the tongue was also a stroke of genius with smoky, beefy flavors. It gets a 9 out of 10.
|321 East 73rd Street (between Second Avenue and First Avenue),
Upper East Side