When it came to reimagining the downstairs space at Union Square’s W hotel, the Gerber Group decided to have a little fun with it.
Irvington, now open in the former Olives space, serves seasonally driven New American food with Mediterranean touches — don’t miss the lamb tartare with harissa — with the kind of whimsy that you don’t find a lot of in Manhattan.
The ‘Sleepy Hollow’ theme
For those who just can’t bear to keep Halloween confined to October, Irvington has plenty of wink-wink nods to the story. The biggest is when you walk in: Marcus Pierce’s portrait of the Headless Horseman being beckoned into a woman’s bedroom, a personal commission by owner Scott Gerber. The restaurant’s name was partly inspired by author Washington Irving, who wrote the story.
And the bar’s glass-shelved center island, stacked with colorful “potions,” has the look of a witch’s lab to summon the cursed Horseman. Speaking of potent potables, the bar serves classic cocktails bottled and carbonated, with handwritten labels.
The rustic touches
The space is airy and modern, but the presentation is urban farmhouse: Several dishes, and even a cocktail, are served in copper tableware. The line of small barrels at the top of the bar setup are aging Old Fashioneds. The kitchen puts out large-format dishes of chicken, duck and lamb from its brick oven and rotisserie. Wild boar appears on the menu several times (but you’ll want it in the cavatelli bolognese), and vegetables are cooked in fat drippings, as nature intended.
The gutsy opening
Instead of phasing in breakfast, brunch and lunch, Irvington opened this week with full service from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. — despite head chef David Nichols (Kingside) taking a spill on his Vespa recently. NYC didn’t get here by taking things slow, but this is another level.
The ambitious menu
The list of things that aren’t made in-house at Irvington is likely shorter than what is: sausages, pastas, mozzarella, gelatos and sorbets. While we’re waiting for spring to finally arrive, savor a preview of the season’s tart-sweetness in the pineapple-cilantro sorbet. Gerber’s other personal contribution to Irvington is an off-the-menu Chicken Parmesan that nods to two of his favorite Italian restaurants in the city. It’s not what you expect from the dish — but then, what would be the fun in that?
201 Park Ave. S.