Behind an unmarked door underneath the Andaz Hotel on Fifth Avenue awaits a dimly-lit, seductive subterranean lair called... well, it doesn't have a name yet. (For those who like labels, we're told it will eventually have a name.) People are calling it the "bar in the cellar" for now, but this no-name lounge is already a noteworthy destination. Though it's not yet "officially" open, the big beautiful room was almost completely full by 8 p.m. last night, and it's easy to understand why.
Like the superb restaurant Wall & Water at the city's other Andaz hotel in Lower Manhattan, the kitchen is completely open and integrated into the space, giving you a sense of full immersion into the process behind the food and drinks. A philosophy of meticulously locally sourced ingredients rules both spots, and the fun small plates comfort food menu in the cellar is seriously delicious. Last night we were invited to try some of chef Roberto Alicea's dishes and cocktails by Alchemy Consulting, and everything was first-rate: The smoked sturgeon, crusty bread and lardo ($13); the shrimp a la plancha with garlic, lemon peel, peppers, and herbs ($15); the halibut with garbanzo beans and caper salad ($12).
These "small plates" really aren't that small at all, and considering the stellar quality of the ingredients and the preparation, the prices are more than reasonable. The in-house cheese room turns out a variety of excellent, locally-sourced cheeses, and there are four different cured hams to choose from. Other meat options include a roasted pork shoulder, with black kale, raisins and orange peel ($15); and breaded veal sweetbreads, with slow cooked yellow wax beans and ground veal ($15). To wash all this down you have your choice of wines by the bottle or glass, some as low as $11, draft beer, or the highly recommendable seasonal cocktail menu from made with all-fresh ingredients. Perhaps the highlight of this list is their signature drink The Cellar Door (Pimms #1, lemon, bergamot syrup, sailor jerry spiced rum, st. elizabeth allspice dram).
These cocktails are in the Milk & Honey neighborhood of $15, which is less than they could be charging considering the location (5th Avenue and 41st Street) and the posh clientele you might expect to find down there. But we noted no douchebaggery on display in last night crowd, just a convivial crowd of friendlies (maybe that was The Cellar Door talking?). Even stone cold sober, it's an attractive room, dominated by two mammoth 120-year-old, 14-foot-long slabs of claro walnut which serve as the bar. A warm brick wall from a 1790 rural Connecticut farmhouse lines the entrance and basement walls, where banquettes await under exposed wood beams and old industrial light fixtures.
Andaz 5th Avenue, 485 5th Avenue at 41st Street // 5 p.m. "till late" // (212) 601-1234; no reservations