Jell-O Shots & Ricotta Dumplings: Hill & Dale Opens in LES

The specialty at Hill & Dale, new to Allen Street, is a peach and vodka Jell-O shot called the “Dot & Dash.” Our waitress told us it was the house signature, so I suggested we all take one together. She declined, saying she didn’t like the feel of Jell-O in her mouth, and neither do I, so instead of the Jell-O shot, I drank just about everything else, and just about everything else was lovely.

A whole daisy came floating in the “Floozy,” one of eight other cocktails (all $12) fashioned by co-owner Elliott Carlson of Le Bain, which mixed muddled strawberries with Ketel One. Drinks like the Bourbon Negroni and The Berliner (rye, sweet vermouth, cherry, and Ramazzotti bitters) were plenty aromatic, and didn’t mask quality liqueurs with needless sugar. “Flip the Frog,” made with Plymouth Gin and St-Germain, sees its highball glass stacked with half a dozen cucumber slices. I approved.

Décor is themed around early home audio systems: an old brass phonograph rests atop a shelf behind the bar, and kitschy radios line a beam across the dining room. The 1920s-speakeasy thing treads lightly at worst. Beatles tracks played over the PA for a solid hour, with no dips into that “Hello! Ma Baby” schlock. Behind a metal grate in the back, a 30-person lounge with cushy sofas and potted ferns is well suited to quiet sipping.

Hill & Dale calls itself a “gastrolounge,” meaning they serve dinner. Ricotta dumplings are served with a mushroom medley, and a very juicy wild boar sausage wraps around three fantastic cabbage salads. Fried things come in all shapes. One of my housemade chicken nuggets (brown meat) had the form of a heart, while another looked like a man holding a basketball between his legs. For those keeping score in the New York pickle game, Hill & Dale’s current versions are golden baby beets, spring onions, celery, and cucumbers.

The Jell-O shots are not pickled.

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Betony & The Fourth Open, Cardamom Ganache & Herbal Beers Hit NYC

Betony, the new haute-earthy tenant in Brasserie Pushkin’s former space, didn’t entirely do away with the ornate. The chandelier is still there, as are the plush velvet banquettes. The back dining room’s concrete ceiling is etched with abstract Latin geometry, as if one of the construction workers had a Good Will Hunting moment. (Eamon Rockey, the general manager, said it came at the owner’s discretion—“he likes very opulent things.”)

The decorative posturing, which at least is tempered by some potted foliage, is more than backed up by Eleven Madison Park vet Bryce Shuman’s creations from start to finish. Pure pleasers, like the light and vinegary fried pickled ramps, or the cured pink snapper on a basil pesto, abet more challenging dishes. Flavors come in appropriated forms: cardamom is housed in a milky foam over dark chocolate ganache, tomato juice is turned to ice and “snowed” over gooseberry compote, and an asparagus pappardelle tastes of the plant with an intensity that goes far beyond the amount of spears actually in there.

Rockey, also of Eleven Madison Park, matches Shuman’s care behind the bar. An orange rind treated for two weeks with oleo-saccharum sugar tops the ice on an orange julep (“a sipper.”) An extensive beer list pulls in some beyond-rare gypsy beers, like Stillwater’s white sage Saison “Cellar Door”: an ornate herbal brew with a name like velvet.

Downtown also gains an elaborate new hang with the arrival of The Fourth, an American brasserie at the new Hyatt Union Square fit for townies and tourists alike. In keeping with the hotel theme, a helix of dangling bunk bed frames by the artist Brinton Jaecks fills a 25-foot tall dining room. Downstairs, a South American restaurant called Botequim with an open kitchen is set to open later this year. The co-ed restroom, which made for some fun exchanges, shares a door with the Hyatt’s gym. Don’t steal the towels. 

Del Posto vet Michael William Davis serves both classics—bi-coastal oysters, shellfish cioppino, a wonderfully juicy pink salt, roasted-brick chicken breast—and more creative fare. A thick piece of hake comes surrounded by tender chunks of pork cheek. The Fourth’s burger arrives on a tomato bun with a sunnyside up egg. For dessert, the Fuller’s London Porter ice cream is as crisp and frosty as a mug of the good stuff. Fennel-sage chicken meatballs and a poached egg are available for breakfast, if the night took you upstairs. Don’t steal the shampoo.