This wine bar has all the right friends.

  • Duck banh mi

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

It's an established trend: Some of New York's most successful restaurants are casual spots that combine fine-dining rigor with a laid-back setting. Ardesia, an iron-and-marble gem on a desolate stretch of West 52nd Street, is something of a wine-bar equivalent—owner Mandy Oser, who also works at Le Bernardin, has clearly benefitted from collaborating with some of the best talents in the industry. (For example, while not officially involved, Le Bernardin's star sommelier, Aldo Sohm, advised on the bottle selection.) The result is a rare mix of a relaxed setting with superior wines and excellent, eclectic small plates from chef Amorette Casaus (El Quinto Pino). The 75-strong collection of international bottles is a smart and studied balance of Old and New World options. Though the list lacked specific tasting notes (which would have been helpful when considering less familiar selections from areas like Slovenia and Hungary), the knowledgeable and friendly servers were more than willing to assist. Our bartender poured two suggested tastes with each of our food items to help us decide on our preferred pairings. It's an eye-opening process that encourages leaving your comfort zone: Bye-bye, pinot grigio; hello, grner veltliner. The dry white from the Knoll winery in Wachau, Austria smelled like oak and honey and had enough backbone to stand up to a duck banh mi layered with buttery house-made pt and duck prosciutto. A blended red from Spain's Cellar Can Blau, meanwhile, was a spicy, velvety match for Casaus's coriander-rich homemade mortadella (a type of charcuterie rarely made in-house). Even better was the Austrian trockenbeerenauslese, a caramely, intensely sweet dessert wine that paired beautifully with an apple cobbler special. According to our bartender, it's one of Sohm's preferred quaffs. Sometimes it helps to know the right people.—TONY

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510 W 52nd St between Tenth and Eleventh Aves (212-247-9191). Subway: C, E to 50th St. Mon, Tue, Sun 5pm--midnight; Wed--Sat 5pm--2am. Average glass of wine: $10.