A fresh, bright find in Tribeca
Upon entering the corner door of chef Andrew Carmellini’s Little Park, you may never realize that this is a hotel restaurant. It doesn’t get lost in Smyth - a Thompson Hotel; Little Park is fresh, bright and unexpected.
During the day, light comfortably reflects off the pale gray and marble walls, striped booths, birch tables and tiled floor, which gives the space an airy, coastal vibe. Fresh, sunny flowers grace each table, and the color scheme of yellow, gray and white work to brighten and liven up the area. Even the blue "denim"-shirted waiters have a sparkle to them, as if they got up extra early to surf before work.
While all this leads one to think California and easy, breezy ocean living, the similarities end there, as the food, service and overall presentation remain upscale and oh-so-very New York. For starters, as is the trend at the moment, Carmellini (of Locanda Verde and The Dutch fame) has dedicated this menu to local and seasonal fare with a focus on vegetables. Dishes include the beetroot tartare with horseradish cream, fried cauliflower with pistachios and roasted carrots with black garlic. Each plate is dished up with the idea that you might share, so they are great for people who love to sample many foods, groups and anyone wanting to get more vegetables in their diet.
At breakfast, Little Park serves baked goods made with organic whole grains from upstate New York, fresh-pressed vegetable and fruit juices and brûléed grapefruit with sugar and mint. Lunchtime features a unique celery root schnitzel sandwich, as well as many options also found on the dinner menu, such as the bigeye tuna crudo and grass-fed hanger steak. During dinner, try the celery root pastrami or the black kale ravioli, two dishes that really highlight the local fare. As you decide between ordering the steamed black bass or shellfish ragu, make sure to ask for a hunk of the freshly baked spent grain bread and cultured butter. Though the bread is gratis, you only get it by request, and you don’t want to miss it.
No matter which meal you're there for, it will be had in comfort. There are no elbow-touching seats crammed in here, and each of the dozen-plus booths in the main dining room has a private feel, even though the room remains open. For larger parties, the New York City restaurant has a banquet along the windows with tables that can easily be pushed together. Warm golden lights hang low over the diners, a clever decoy that gives the space an intimacy that otherwise would be lost due to the high, rustic wood-paneled ceiling. This artful touch comes courtesy of the design firm Gachot Studios, which did the entire hotel as well.
On the other side of the L-shaped space, you find a grand marble bar stockpiled with artisan spirits, not surprising given that the beverage program is overseen by former PDT mixologist Anne Robinson. Grab a stool and order one of her expertly made craft cocktails like the Apple Buck, a drink composed of James Oliver Rye, Strega, apple cider, lemon, Fever Tree Ginger Beer and Boston Bittahs 15. Sitting next to you at the bar is an eclectic crowd made up of hotel guests, gourmands and the inevitable Carmellini fan club.
Expect the Tribeca restaurant to be busy most nights, but there are moments of serenity where you don't need to obtain a reservation to sit quietly and enjoy the food, a drink and the atmosphere. The gentle clink of silverware and low hum of your neighbors add to the soundtrack, which leaves out the pop hits and instead demurely features classics like Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love." Drift onto a cloud of expertly executed small plates made with only the best, most consciously collected ingredients, and savor every last minute.