I wrote about CellarDoor not long after it opened, and promised I’d write more after I’d been there.
I’ve been now, but I’m afraid I’m not really going to live up to my promise, because I still haven’t had a full meal at the CBD gastro-lounge. What I’ve had are a couple of the cocktails (which I enjoyed, but about which I’m sure my colleague Mr. McNally can better inform you) and a couple of small plates, including the chicken skin “cracklins” and the grilled octopus with a root vegetable purée, capers and sautéed onions.
There’s not much to dislike about crispy chicken skin; it’s a fairly simple equation: skin + heat + salt = delicious. When I do it, I tend to render more of the fat from the skins, which makes the resulting cracklins thinner, but that’s a personal preference, and I thought the slight acidity of the crema was an excellent counterpoint to the richness of the skins.
I’m also a sucker for grilled octopus, so that was an easy order. The dish comes with capers, onions and a root vegetable purée, and that got me thinking about capers. I’ve only ever had pickled capers. A bit of research showed me that what we call capers are the flower bud of a plant that grows in arid regions, and which is almost always eaten only after being salted and pickled. The more you know!
I like the space at CellarDoor; they’ve done a fantastic job of opening the rooms up while maintaining the original bones of the place. The décor is also a lot nicer than the faux-bordello theme that once graced the building. You enter through a narrow alleyway to a door that opens onto a bar. Facing which the main dining room is to your right, with a smaller room to your left down a narrow hallway. There’s outside seating at a patio just past the entrance door, and plans are afoot to restore the porch/balconies to the building’s façade.
So I like the drinks, the space, and what I’ve had of the food. I have no doubt that owner Greg Gremillion and chef Jamielyn Arcega have the place headed in the right direction, and that if I’d tried other stuff on the menu I’d have been equally happy. Lamb kebabs; squid ink dumplings and adobo-glazed chicken wings stuffed with rice all sound pretty appealing.
I haven’t had all (or even most) of the menu, but what I’ve had is enough for me to at least recommend you check the place out. The restaurant is located at 916 Lafayette Street and is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 to 2 for lunch and from 4 until midnight for dinner; On Friday the same ours apply, except that you should substitute “till” for “midnight; the same is true for Saturday and Sunday except those days there’s no lunch. Call 383-5583 to find out more, or just go check the place out.