Our latest edition of Quick Bites brings us to Suffolk Street for spaghetti.
Davelle, a Japanese-style cafe, or kissaten, which opened in March on a quiet stretch of Suffolk Street, still feels a little like a secret. Not that it doesn't get crowded at certain times; on a recent Sunday even the marble mantel above the fireplace was pressed into service as a dining surface. But this tiny, rustic charmer, with its chipped paint, pocked walls, unfinished floors, and battered metal stools, certainly has a clubhouse air to it, minus any attitude or secret codes. Enter these distressed doors for the first time and it's like you've stumbled upon something special.
In Japan, kissatens are full coffee shops (the hardware for that part of operation here is impressive) that also serve three distinct meals throughout the day and into the night, when it turns more of oden bar. Davelle is managed by Yudai Kanayama, who also runs Izakaya in the East Village and the Samurice booth in the Canal Street Market.
Yes, the "all-day cafe" has become a hot restaurant trend in certain NYC neighborhoods—remember when we used to just have all those diners?—but Kanayama and crew's ambition in the kitchen, attention to details, and refusal to dumb-down the menu really set it apart. Passion and commitment, not just a marketing concept, is everywhere in evidence here. Add an exceptionally friendly and helpful staff, and Davelle makes for an ideal solo dining space, an impressive date spot, or a place to linger away an afternoon.
The best thing on the menu here is the spaghetti (a common menu item at kissatens). In fact, Davelle's spaghetti dishes, served three ways, are among the most satisfying plates of pasta you'll find anywhere in town right now. The Mochi Mochi Napolitan Spaghetti, for example, is thick with grilled bell peppers, onions, carrots, and big, chewy chunks of bacon, all tossed in a ketchup-y sauce and topped with a runny egg and grated parmesan. It is fantastic. And the Spicy Cod Caviar Spaghetti is just as good—lively and creamy and fishy as hell.
If you come to Davelle for dinner, and obviously I think you should do exactly that, the oden part of the menu opens up, with its vast riches of soupy delights to explore. There are two oden machines at the bar—one vegetarian, the other for meats and fishes—and, as was explained to me, the idea is to keep all of the various offerings simmering in a common dashi broth, with each imparting their own flavors and adding depth to mix. My companion and I took the menu's "any 10 for $36" suggestion (there are more than 20 choices total), and everything was excellent, but I would especially recommend the Enoki Inside Fried Tofu Skin, the pair of fat Shiitaki tops, the crisp Lotus Root Ganmo, the Fried Octopus Ball, the sharp Daikon Radish, and the thick Sausage. But really, it's all great, so order freely all up and down the list.
The Karaage Fried Chicken is perhaps a bit underseasoned, but the thigh meat is tender and juicy and the skin has a nice crackle to it. During brunch service all such entrees come with a small crock of Davelle's Japanese Potato Salad, the spuds basically mashed and infused with truffle oil (not too much, don't worry) and a cup of soup, which in my case was a shockingly rich and wonderful Tomato Basil dashi. They've been sold out of the Fruits Sandwich on each of my visits, but I vow to keep trying.
I'm afraid that this tiny place—it seats about 20 total, and that includes the mantelpiece "table"—is going to be overrun at peak hours, but if you're looking for something simple, delicious, and different, Davelle is worth it.
Davelle is located at 102 Suffolk Street just north of Delancey, and is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday (646-771-7855; davellenewyork.com)