Not your dad’s basement lair
Claim to fame: Crafty culinary capers that aren’t contrived
Reason to go: Fine dining techniques in an unpretentious setting
To look out for: The tantalizing selection of digestifs
As far-fetched as this is, we’re going with it: The American paper towel-brand Brawny features a squeaky clean lumberjack in a checkered shirt who looks like he could fix your leaky radiator, scrub your bathroom and build your kids a tree house, while simultaneously whipping up a seven-course meal for you and ten of your closest friends. Ferris is the Brawny Man of Manhattan restaurants. The basement dining room (under the Made Hotel) has a certain carpentered charm with rough, exposed beams and an air of 1970’s TV-den, filtered through a modern, Nordic lens. It’s cozy, convivial and captivating. Just like Chef Greg Proechel’s cuisine.
Proechel made some noise when cooking at Lower East Side hipster Le Turtle, he also tooled in the kitchens at Blanca and Eleven Madison Park. His culinary expressions are elegantly gutsy and surreptitiously refined; more Hamptons beach house than Woodstock log cabin. Ferris’ menu is divided into three sections of shareable plates, straightforward like Mr. Brawny would have it, focused on one ingredient that gets decked out with unexpected flourishes. The crab is a fine example of Proechel’s pranks; an unassuming, small bowl of cold soup that’s like a sunny yet brisk walk by the Montauk lighthouse; sweet crab and a brackish breeze of sake-cured trout roe, topped with a cajoling parsnip velouté and earthy dehydrated ramps. The lobster toast, a thin square of white bread with braised kombu, black sesame and tomalley aioli delivers an umami hammer blow and begs for a spritz of the accompanying charred lime, it got us thinking about that time we wiped out on the surfboard. Not the most graceful creation, but it illustrates Proechel’s innovative way with ingredients. Chips and dip is an artery-clogging magnificence of chicharrones and velvety chicken liver mousse, and Proechel’s “Iberico katsu sando” is an ingenious take on the now ubiquitous Japanese tonkatsu sandwich. Keeping it classy though, this one is made with richly marbled Spanish presa pork, cooked medium-rare, stuffed between toasted bread smeared with tangy-sweet katsu-sauce. But the Brawny Man must have a he-man moment too; there’s a cote de boeuf for two with Brussels sprout slaw, black garlic and blackened cipollini-flavored whipped buttermilk, as well as the not-to-be-missed, brilliant blood sausage, a beautiful mess of chili- and clove-spiked boudin spiked with grilled dates and toasted seeds.
Desserts are easy to count; there are usually two, the yuzu frozen yoghurt is drizzled with olive oil and capped with dainty bits of Japanese Wakamomo peach. Refreshing yet lacking the real yuzu punch we’d hoped for. Do yourself a favor; order one of the artful cocktails. Eau de Spa is an intriguing concoction of mezcal, carrot, cilantro and pineapple with a jalapeño finish and the Melon de Caraïbe, a rum-honeydew-egg white-fandango, comes served in grandma’s finest etched glassware. The wine list is short yet well curated, spanning intriguing European finds.