Lindens in New York is a fine new American restaurant that brings sophistication south of Canal Street
Lindens is a beautiful, brand-new restaurant within the four-year-old Arlo Soho Hotel, located on an unusually quiet block from the frenetic clamor of Canal Street. Its name is inspired by the many lime trees that line Gotham’s sidewalks – 27,433 of the Littleleaf variety alone.
One enters a large dining room whose Green Wall is a mossy hanging, with 80 seats inside and 40 in a pretty courtyard, which has two heated wooden huts for ten people each, beyond the enveloping bar and raw sea bass. The lighting is dim at night – tables against this wall are better – so with the dark, bare wooden tables it’s impossible to see how beautiful partner chef Carsten Johannsen’s food is, as shown the photos here during the day. Pulsating contemporary music might work at the bar, but it’s an eyesore during dinner.
Johannsen and seasoned restaurateur Gary Wallach of Renwick Hospitality Group run Lindens with “a product-driven philosophy [that] encompasses the food and drink experience, with both menus focusing on seasonal changes in favor of local producers and suppliers. Fair enough; the sentiment is clearly followed through on the menu, which is very ingredient-driven, starting with raw sea bass with items such as fresh east and west coast oysters ($22/$24), also available as a snack. sample (prepared in three different ways), and excellent hamachi ceviche with jalapeño peppers, pink lemon and smoked salt ($22) and tuna tataki with avocado, ponzu, sansho pepper and puffed farro ($22); there’s also an oyster happy hour (half price) with drink specials.
Incidentally, the many signature cocktails categorized as herbal, vegetal, and floral are priced at $16, slightly lower than comparable restaurants these days. Food prices are also moderate, especially for a restaurant of this sophistication, with no main courses over $29.
Start with Herbs and Vegetables which includes Parker House rolls flavored with thyme (a little dense one night) with sweet acorn squash butter ($8) which goes well with everything else. Julienne potatoes with salt seasoning, mixed herbs and truffle aioli ($10) are listed in this category of appetizers, but don’t fail to have them with main courses. It’s a big portion that four people can share, without leaving a single one in the paper case.
The idea of a root vegetable pie ($18) takes on the succulence of ricotta and a truffle vinaigrette in a very good puff pastry.
Pizza & Pasta follows, and the margherita variety ($26) – always my standard for judging pizza – was very thin crusted and very flavorful, more like a great snack for the table. Two pastas – butternut gnocchi with caramelized parsnips, cipollini onions and mushroom jus ($18) and kabocha squash ravioli with pancetta, sage and five-year-old Banyuls vinegar ($24) – were both tasty and had an acidic balance to their sweetness, although al dente they were not.
Charred and roasted entrees included a juicy striped bass ($26) nicely served with celeriac, port, a dipping scallop surprise and the flavor of Meyer lemon. The hanger steak with welcome parsnips, the bite of chimichurri and the sweetness of fried shallots was a delicious departure from the usual steak fries ($29).
There are two cheeseburgers on the menu. Oddly enough, the nice beefy and juicy option, with grilled onions, lettuce and cherry pepper relish, was only $16 – a good buy – but the “Impossible Cheeseburger”, which is vegetarian with the same condiments, cost a dollar more. I try to keep an open mind about vegetables disguised as meat, but this last one was impossible for me to really get excited about, especially after a bite of the other burger.
By the way, each dish is noted with an alphabetical letter – “v” for vegetarian, “gf” for gluten-free, “pb” for plant-based and “n” for “contains nuts” – if you need this kind of advice.
The desserts are all $14 and worth every penny, including a plate of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and a root beer float with cake batter soft ice cream and captain crunch, which my mates from table didn’t quite get it but drank it down with pure childish delight. The lemon bourbon donuts, not as fluffy as they could have been, were sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar and a delicious chocolate sauce. A gluten-free PB&J brownie with extra virgin olive oil is also on the menu.
Wallach oversees the spirits and wine list, and although modest in size, the selection is thoughtful to go with this kind of food and does so at a fair price. You have the choice between a dozen different teas ($4) and as many coffees ($3.50-$5.50).
It’s always good to see a serious restaurant with a chef whose ideas match the inventiveness of the decor. And Lindens’ location on such a quiet street is an added attraction in a neighborhood with few others.
Arlo SoHo Hotel
2 Renwick Street
Lindens is open daily for dinner, Saturdays. & Sun. for brunch.