Restaurant of the Week: Haven

Julie Besonen

Haven sounds like a comfort food destination but it's really more of a ticket to the wild side. Behind a tame East 50s address lies a bi-level space with a bordello-red glow and ooh-la-la dressed servers. Downstairs is a sexy bar featuring cocktails with alluring names like the Jezebel, the Lolita, and Hello Kitty. I was attracted to the more repressed-sounding No. 10 ($15), a mixture of Tanqueray 10, Campari and fresh grapefruit, with just the right level of tart and bitter. Needing food, we moved upstairs to a sumptuous little parlor and sat in upholstered chairs under a baroque chandelier. The idea here is global tapas, which is a concept I understand and yet found puzzling. The menu is broken down by country or region. Why was lobster risotto ($23) categorized as a dish from land-locked Piedmont? It was creamy and luscious, flecked with porcini mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano and white truffle oil, elements from all over northern Italy. Macaroni and cheese ($10) was very good but why did the Carolinas get credit when its origin goes back to Marco Polo, the English and Thomas Jefferson's White House? I also enjoyed a Thai dish of Long Island duck meatballs ($15) with curry sauce. Then there was the crispy yellowfin tuna spring roll ($11) from Japan, when China or Vietnam would have been more accurate. Other small plates make more geographic sense, like Cajun shrimp ($17) from Louisiana, and ribeye with chimichurri sauce ($17) from Argentina. In the global world the assemblage of ingredients can indeed be from anywhere. Haven is a place where it all comes together, and in a bizarre way, it works.

Haven
244 E. 51st St.
(212) 906-9066

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