Village Tart (CLOSED)

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Last year, the recession forced pastry chef Pichet Ong to close his restaurant P*ong and its adjoining bakery, Batch, but the setback didn’t appear to slow him down. Within a year the Spice Market vet, best known for his bold Asian palette, had signed on as consulting chef to open Spot Dessert Bar in the East Village and Village Tart in Nolita. The latter, owned by Lesly Bernard (Tillman’s), is an attractive, if twee, caf that includes marble-topped tables, wood paneling and walls lined with gilded mirrors, an odd match for Ong’s unorthodox style. Diners can find a 50-50 mix of sweet and savory options: Go for a treat from the pastry counter, drop in for brunch with French-press artisan-roasted coffee, or make an evening of it (as we did) with dinner and wine. When the food is good, it reflects Ong’s pastry-chef approach to savory foods, in which he often melds salty, sweet, piquant and tart flavors. A multicolored beet salad with Greek yogurt and citrus, for example, contained the thoughtful addition of caramelized pistachios, which emphasized the nutty-sweet root vegetable. In other dishes, the results are just as often disappointing. The syrupy bacon jam that bathed woody, out-of-season brussels sprouts was overwhelmingly saccharine. A three-mushroom tart, one of a handful of dishes that helps explain the restaurant’s name, was also a letdown: The portabello, crimini and shiitake mix that topped the flaky crust lacked the earthy intensity we’d expect from those mushrooms. Buttermilk-poached halibut, on the other hand, made for a lovely light entre, its silky meat topped with rich, brown-buttery bread crumbs. Surprisingly, desserts were just as inconsistent. A creamy lemon-raspberry budino tasted metallic, so we focused instead on a gargantuan slice of moist chocolate cake with brandied cherries. Village Tart isn’t the ideal showcase for Ong’s cooking—you’re better off stopping here for lighter fare and getting a full meal elsewhere.—TONY

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Venue name: Village Tart (CLOSED)
Address: 86 Kenmare St
New York

Cross street: at Mulberry St
Opening hours: Mon–Wed, Sun 11am–midnight; Thu–Sat 11am–2am
Transport: Subway: 6 to Spring St
Price: Average main course: $14. AmEx, MC, V
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