DINING REVIEW | LONG ISLAND
How Do They Like It? Loud
A Review of Revel, in Garden City
Kathy Kmonicek for The New York Times
By JOANNE STARKEY Published: November 21, 2013
At Revel, an elegant restaurant that opened in early September in Garden City, most of the reveling is going on at the back of the place. Patrons going in the front door on Franklin Avenue see a smallish, somewhat modest dining room and a sign directing them to the hostess station in the rear dining room.
The restarant looks good, with dark aquamarine walls and shiny silver heating ducts, but high ceilings and hard surfaces — tiled floors and bare wood tables — make for a high noise level. The front room might be marginally quieter, but on a busy Saturday night, it was shouting-only there, too. Still, one patron’s loud is another’s lively. The 30-something crowd definitely seemed happy with the scene.
Revel has both a veteran owner and a veteran chef. Many Long Islanders know Jim Doukas, the owner, from his years as owner of Caffe Angelica in Garden City Park (since closed). David Martinez, the executive chef, graduated from the French Culinary Institute (http://www.internationalculinarycenter.com/) (now the International Culinary Center) and went on to earn his culinary stripes in the kitchens of Bouley (http://www.davidbouley.com/) and Aureole (http://www.charliepalmer.com/aureole-new-york), both in Manhattan.
The restaurant is attractive and the management is experienced, but it is the food that counts. There were very few dishes that didn’t hit the bull’s-eye. The Revel salad would be my pick as an opener. Organic field greens, toasted sunflower seeds, pickled shallots, cucumber and roasted tomatoes were tossed in the lightest of lemon-olive oil dressings.
Other outstanding starters were the meaty crab cake set on a white bean purée with a refreshing citrus-fennel salad on the plate, the three smoked barbecue pork-belly sliders with cabbage kimchi and sour pickles for contrast and crunch, and the seasonal roasted brussels sprouts bolstered by lardons, shallots, lemon and fresh mint.
Hearty entrees garnered the most praise. Spaghettini cacio e pepe is a dish I’d like to duplicate at home. The pasta was laced with roasted garlic, radicchio and thin slices of Italian sausage, all bathed in a creamy sauce flavored by black pepper and assorted Italian cheeses.
We loved the meltingly soft beef short ribs atop wild mushroom and goat cheese polenta, and the equally tender pork osso buco over a chorizo and roasted fennel saffron risotto. The Black Angus burger was cooked medium-rare as requested and arrived with fantastic fries that had been cooked in duck fat. They were thin, crisp and addictive. They also turned up alongside the hanger steak, which was only slightly chewy.
There were mixed notices for the broiled branzino fillet atop a warm quinoa salad. The fish was flaky but the quinoa was mushy. Another also-ran was the eggplant caponata appetizer. It was a smooth paste and lacked the verve of the more traditional, chunky version.
Because of limited space in the kitchen, desserts from David Martinez’s recipes are made at the Buttercooky Bakery (http://www.buttercookybakery.com/buttercooky_bakery/Home-Thanksgiving.html) in Floral Park. Our favorites were the individual lattice apple pie à la mode, which was big enough to share, the triple-layer chocolate mousse and a sophisticated version of red velvet cake with layers of cake and cream cheese frosting, all surrounded by fresh berries.
There were only minor service shortfalls. On both visits servers failed to recite prices with the specials. Still, our waiter on a busy Saturday night was a gem. Not only did he keep water glasses full, but I had to wave him off when he tried to bring a third free refill of my soft drink. That same night, when a diner at our table had a cut on her wrist, a staff member rushed to a nearby store for Band-Aids.
Both employees typify the restaurant’s amiable, helpful service, just one of the reasons I’d return to Revel.
835 Franklin Avenue
THE SPACE Attractive, 143-seat restaurant with two dining rooms: a modest one in the front, which has a window with a view of the kitchen, and a showier back room that incorporates the bar. Complete wheelchair access.
THE CROWD Young, animated small groups. There were no children the nights of my visits. Servers are warm and caring.
THE BAR Long, elaborate, mirror-backed bar with 16 stools. The wine list, with California and Europe well represented, has 45 bottles ($30 to $225) and 27 glasses ($8 to $16). The beer list has eight on draft ($6 to $7) and 25 bottles ($5 to $15).
THE BILL Lunch entrees are $10 to $23. Dinner entrees range from $17 (burger) to $48 (prime rib-eye steak). American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Discover are accepted.
WHAT WE LIKED Revel salad, crab cake, roasted brussels sprouts, pork belly sliders, spaghettini cacio e pepe, branzino, short ribs, hanger steak, burger, pork osso buco, French fries, apple pie, red velvet cake, triple chocolate mousse.
IF YOU GO Lunch: Daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dinner: Sunday to Thursday from 4:30 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4:30 to 11 p.m. Reservations are a must on weekends. Parking is in the municipal lot behind the restaurant.
RATINGS Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor.