You know you're in good hands when the bread- (semolina, from Grandaisy) and olive oil- (a generous pour of something spectacular) course gets your eyes rolling back in ecstasy. But then, we expected good things before we even walked into Prima NYC, a handsome, comfortable, friendly restaurant, just opened on First Street by a crack team of long-time East Village pros who've honed their respective crafts at the likes of Motorino, Ninth Street Espresso, and the Summit Bar. And as our meal hummed pleasantly along on a rainy evening last week, things just kept getting better and better, our high expectations surpassed by the big flavors and deft preparation.
We devoured a sampling of sorts from all parts Prima's focused and appealing menu, starting with an excellent Sardines Rillettes, the rich, oily Portuguese-imported fishes chopped fine and combined with an olive tapenade, a bit of mint, some shallots, some lemon, and a healthy dose of that great olive oil. It's more of a sardine salad than a true rillette, but no matter: it's a huge portion, it goes great with the thick slabs of toast, and we loved the bright yellow can. A totally satisfying starter.
The mains here at Prima restaurant are almost all fish, all cooked simply and (we presume) well, and offered steak-house style with your choice of sauce. We tried the Sea Scallops, which were fat, sweet, perfectly done, and made even more special by the charred lemon and bonito butter on the side. So good, in fact, that we barely even touched our sauce choice, the tomato-y Vierge. (Next time: the Tempura Hake with Tartar Sauce… or maybe the Arctic Char with Bernaise? All of these, by the way, are under $20.) Continuing the steak-house structure, the entrees come side-less, but there's a solid half-dozen or so from which to choose in the Vegetables department, all under $10. We went with the Squash Puree (a blend of Butternut and Kabocha, smooth and sweet) with brown butter, and it was dense and fantastic, though it left us zero room for dessert. Next time. Which there will most definitely be.
Prima East Village details
Prima is located on First Street between First and Second Avenues (super convenient for those movie dates at the Sunshine), and is open every day for dinner from 5:00 p.m. until 11:00 p.m. Prima is also open all day long, for coffee and pastries, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information and a look at the complete Prima menu, please see the restaurant's website, here