Knife + Fork

October 19, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015

The house-cured salmon with pickled ginger and radish on seaweed salad topped with baby arugula (Courtesy of Knife + Fork)
The house-cured salmon with pickled ginger and radish on seaweed salad topped with baby arugula (Courtesy of Knife + Fork)
This casually rustic and intimate place in the East Village is really making its mark by bringing the area to a new level of cuisine since its opening in 2006.
The interior is definitely old school. There’s a wood-burning iron stove that stands casually on the side of the dark wood wine and beer bar. The walls are a combination of brick and rustic pale yellow paint with dim lights and candles that illuminate the dining room. French glass doors open wide onto the street, giving an airy and welcoming feel. The open kitchen is in the far corner—I think a strategic place for the chef/owner Damien Brassel to watch the customers as they savor each dish he serves. For the epicure, this is a heavenly place.

At Knife + Fork, Chef Damien brings an intoxicating experience to his clientele. Every dish he presents is so rich with a variety of vibrant flavors and the utmost attention to detail. It is said, “The eyes eat.” Not only is your palate satiated, but also your eyes enjoy every detail of the presentation—just like a painting on canvas. The chef prepares an a la carte menu every other day and a six-course tasting with a wine pairing every night.

Having worked at Nobu in Japan, the chef induces very beautifully a fusion between East and West while maintaining traditional French technique in a modern European style. This is very evident in the menu. Celtic bread, known as Celtic loaf, is served on a wooden board with mounds of rock salt and butter. This delicious bread is made on site, just like everything else—while the produce is picked up fresh from the local green markets.

As we sat at the table we were greeted with one surprise after another, each more pleasant than the last. We had the six-course tasting menu. The first was the cured salmon with coriander and ginger, wrapped in nori seaweed with wasabi crème fraiche, and a salad of radish and lime—an amazing combination. But that is just the beginning.

This was followed by yet another unforgettable dish, sautéed Maine scallops with mixed spices, and cauliflower puree with scalloped potatoes. Each bite is one surprise after another.

Next came the Bershire pork belly with pickled cucumber and an apple and pear salad with a plum paste. The fatty part melts in the mouth, which is perfect. Though I didn’t confirm it with the chef, it must have taken quite some time to cook. Again, every detail is given full attention.

The cod, which took several days to prepare, arrived next. This one was a blend of East and West. Not a soup and not a stew. It has its own character with strong flavors and breaks all conventions of cooking. However, a touch of sweetness or sour would make it even more perfect. Chef Damien said, “Food brings people together. One must respect life and food. You have to put your passion in it to make the difference.” You can surely see his passion in the way he speaks about food and in every minute detail of his food presentation.

Good news for the vegetarians. Starting this Sunday, Chef Damien will introduce one of his most challenging menus—a vegetarian lunch. Fork + Knife is frequented with an eclectic clientele, and so this new menu is sure to be a success.

The Verdict:  Elating–a decadent feast and a truly unforgettable experience.

This six-course chef choice tasting menu costs $45, with wine pairing $85 per person. There is a three-course pre-theater menu for $35 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and a limited selection of tasting plates at the bar for ($8).

Fork + Knife is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. or call (212) 228-4885