Edera Shows Potential with Simple Hits, Few Misses 

From Flora to Food

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Photo by Dan Patyon

Here's what's closer to the truth: "Former Florist's Yields Some Roses, Some Daisies in its Transformation from Flowers to Food."

The team behind Edera is certainly capable of only blossoming roses. Partner Cesar Amadore, formerly of Andrew Weissman's operations at the Pearl, has brought with him several servers. And, though he had a brief stopover at Brigid, top chef Chris Carlson, previously at Sandbar, is also on board.

But if much of the front of the house has worked together before, and the service shows it, the same might not be said of the kitchen. The possible result is a little unevenness in what lands deftly on your table. A lunchtime-only pizza, for example, was exquisite. Called the quartirolo after a mellow Italian cheese from Lombardy, the pie is alive with the silvery flashes of white anchovies, sharp with peppery arugula and regal with its crown of perfectly fried egg. Calamari alla romana, on the other hand, were ordered largely because of a claim of preserved lemon — an ingredient that would take them out of the ordinary. As expected, the calamari were impeccably fried and their diavola sauce was sufficiently devilish. But the preserved lemon turned out to be fine slivers of salted lemon zest — not a disaster but certainly a disappointment.

Edera's dining space comes across a little spartan by day, but at night the place takes on a more intimate air — especially in the intermediate dining space with its lower ceiling. Prices on equivalent items don't change de noche, but the selection is naturally larger. Gambas a la plancha are one plus of after-dark dining. Served with head and tail on, these impressive shrimp are worth every effort; their messy succulence accented with peppery oil and slivered garlic. In such company, I would normally not have thought of ordering the unassuming bruschetta alla Edera. But it turns out that this supremely simple appetizer with toasted baguette, tomato compote and garlicky oil, is a perfect prelude to the meal to come. If the staff should offer additional balsamic, say yes.

Also assumed to be simple are gnocchi. But as one of my more notable kitchen failures, I'm especially attuned to their texture. Where these should have been pillowy, they were instead doughy. Their secondary sautéeing was nevertheless faultless, and although we didn't get a lot of the advertised sage, the "alla bava" (basically "slobbery") sauce with fontina cheese was luxurious to the point of lasciviousness. Also the essence of simplicity (and a Roman standby) is the bavette (a thin, flat pasta) cacio y pepe, counting for its appeal on an artful blending of cheese and showers of black pepper. Next time.

Dining at a nearby table, an off-duty local chef of serious renown gave the grilled salmon two thumbs up, and his word can be trusted — not the least because Carlson once helmed the city's best seafood restaurant. With that same reputation in mind we considered ordering the market-priced baked lubina (seabass) but decided against it on learning the price: $45. Instead, we ordered the special of the day — a sautéed snapper fillet with an array of sidekick components. "Everything tastes exactly like what it is," my dining companion said, herself the product of a Hispano-Italian home kitchen. Some might take this as a compliment, others might have wished for more transformation in the blending of fennel, onion, nappa cabbage, artichoke hearts and assertively al-dente yet brothy cannellini beans that buoyed the excellent fish. Served in classy Riedel glassware, a beautiful Burgundian Chablis from a wine list that's fairly priced served as a willing consort.

Even experienced dining companions sometimes turn up their noses at rabbit. But conejo shouldn't be shunned just because you can't help but think of Thumper. Turns out the lethal weapons were not required as the braised Texas rabbit was exceptionally tender. The expected acidy tang of an advertised wine vinaigrette sauce may have been soft-pedalled, but only the bones betrayed the dish's bunny-based origin.

Desserts are by Amadore's wife, making this even more of a family venture — and they helped the evening end on a decided crescendo. A beautifully moist and cocoa-dusted tiramisu gave this often offhand dessert back its good name, and a crema Catalana, shatteringly sugar-glazed as though it wanted to be a crème brûlée, was suave and subtly flavored with orange. A glass of spicy Jules Taylor late-harvest sauvignon blanc sent us out into the balmy night with a springy step and a vow to return for the roses that will surely unfold with time. Modest but honest margaritas (the flower, not the drink) won't be shunned, either.

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