East Village Yacht Club

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A restaurant called the East Village Yacht Club. In the actual East Village. Irony, anyone? Just a few years back, any self-respecting Downtowner would have pegged it as yet another distressed dive/art project run by kids who rarely showered and dug the hoot of slinging clam chowder amid stripes and rusty anchors. But this ain��������t then. While E.V.Y.C.��������s menu walks the mac-n-cheese/comfort food kitsch line, one thing��������s oddly clear: The Club has been built with classic New English earnestness. Good Lord, a sincere East Village? What��������s next, the Meatpacking District as a nightlife destination?

Inhabiting the old Chez Es Saada spot on East 1st Street, E.V.Y.C. is captained by Andy King, an earnest lover of sailing, and chef Nicola Kostoni (formerly of Il Cantinori and Periyali among others). Divided into four sections amid the Moorish hash den architecture more befitting its previous tenants, the sweeping two-level space seeks to bring a whole lot of old Newport, Rhode Island to the fair, litter-free shores of the new Downtown New York.

The street level raw bar works it out best��������an airy front room housing sea-colored couches and bar seats with silver star pattern upholstery. A huge lobster peeks out at you from a bucket of ice on the bar, and a shelved array of slightly tarnished silver plates gives off the appropriately dank, old wealth vibe. A selection of oysters, clams, and shrimp from the raw bar was fresh and a nice complement to sea-inspired cocktails that include a spicy Bloody Mary take-off called the �������Bloody Maritime������� and a Dark and Stormy (and Rummy) topped off with an extra shot of Captain Morgan��������s.

A spiral stairwell, painted dark blue and hung with maritime flags��������one with a Rolex logo��������leads down to the main �������Commodore��������s������� dining room below, as well as a sports bar and a backgammon lounge, which airs live TV feeds of famous East Coast harbors. Underneath an arched doorway, the small dining room dishes out classic Cape Cod fare like Coquille St. Jacques and lobster rolls along with today��������s requisite sliders and pigs-in-a-blanket. The sun-and-sand feel of upstairs seemed far away when I was seated in front of a dark alcove strung with white lights that gave the illusion of a window.

The food itself was a bit of an illusion as well. While the crab dip was served with appropriately tightwad Fritos and Ritz crackers, the lobster casserole and Coquille St. Jacques was lacking that definitive Down East flavor. The codfish cakes were better, topped pleasantly with corn salsa. And an off-the-menu riff prepared by the chef as kind of an amuse bouche (with tilapia in place of cod) was crisp and meaty. Don��������t come to this Yacht Club seeking Greenmarket haute though. There are two salad choices��������a mixed greens and a �������Cape Cobb������� with bacon, turkey, egg, and gorgonzola��������and both our entrees came with the same tiny marinated beet pile. This lack of earth food may be authentically New England heart attack, but the weird citrus accent in the chickpea puree that accompanied the breadbasket was like some odd transatlantic fusion hailing from nowhere in particular. For dessert, a �������chipwich������� chocolate ice cream cookie tasted refreshingly homegrown. But I was left wondering: where were the steamers? Or the fried clam bellies? Can a WASP survive without oyster shooters?

The TV feed in the lounge that night was of Newport harbor, taken from the dock of a restaurant where my husband and I have dined a few times. I remember it because they serve my favorite New England dish ever: �������Joey Bag O�������� Donuts,������� a paper bag filled to the brim with deep-fried fishcakes and all the entrenched salt-and-batter character that E.V.Y.C. seems to be lacking. Maybe the East Village Yacht Club��������s commodore just needs to sail on home for a while, to get back on course with what being rich, white, male, and Yankee is all about. Two-word hint: lobster boil.

42 East 1st St. (First and Second Aves.) 212-777-5617 East Village http://evyc.com