Washington Square Tavern

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman

If I tell you how good Washington Square Tavern is then we're all going to have to wait. So we'll go for the communal table and you hang at the bar with your Martinelli Jackass Zin.

Friday night. We get seated at once and you will too if you go early. Fried calamari with yuzu aioli arrives first sans garlic, tomato sauce, cherry peppers, and hot sauce. Bright mesclun and baby spinach salad, so fresh they must be growing it out back, with walnuts and citrus dressing was crunchy and tangy. Frisée salad comes with creamy goat cheese and golden beets, milder than red ones.

With the menu's new American slant, the no-meat group can start with the PEI mussels. Carry on with roasted eggplant and spinach ravioli; roasted local cod and one of our evening's choices: local sea scallops. Huge and lightly cooked, they are plated with what we thought was sauce that turns out to be cauliflower puree. On the list of vegetables we know we should be eating but aren't, this preparation stands as a tribute to chef Chris Cronin's bent of less being more. Cronin, late of Delux Café, also knows what to do with his gnocchi. He terms it simply Parmesan gnocchi with sweet fennel sausage and San Marzano tomatoes in tiny pillows.

The secret to Tavern's ongoing success may be what they don't do: no reservations, no take-out, no dessert and no valet parking. They keep the lights low and the music peppy, with servers who know the menu inside out.

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© April 19, 2012

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