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After descending the narrow, rickety staircase to Vutera, we were disappointed to find the dining room—a low-ceilinged gem evocative of a rustic wine cellar—empty. Not a diner, server nor stitch of grub in sight. But the distant clinking of wineglasses led us to a candlelit garden, where we discovered that the guests not populating the dining room were instead in one of the borough’s most charming restaurant gardens. Beneath vine-wrapped trellises were mismatched tables and wrought-iron chairs—plenty of which, to our relief, were occupied. For a place that seems designed to sate the (marginal) appetites of the patrons of Rose Live Music, the venue above the restaurant, Vutera is a good deal better—and more ambitious—than it has to be. The Mediterranean-leaning menu from chef Molly Del Monte (Little Giant) is charmingly simple. Unfussy dishes, like a cauliflower gratin starter baked with mild leeks, gruyre cheese and a layer of satisfyingly crunchy bread crumbs, worked better than the more complex fare. Del Monte’s meat and potatoes, here expressed in thick, ruby slices of flank steak with roasted purple potatoes, was enhanced with grilled ramps and a smear of smoky romesco. Mushy parsnip gnocchi weren’t a technical success, but the flavors were solid: The earthy root-vegetable dumplings combined seamlessly with meaty shiitake mushrooms, pleasingly bitter beet-green puree and sharp Roquefort cheese. By the time dessert arrived-—a house-made cannoli filled with Salvatore Bklyn ricotta and coated in honey—the show had kicked off upstairs and strains of jazz could be heard in the garden. No offense to the musicians, but we preferred the act down below.
345 Grand St
|Cross street:||between Havemeyer St and Marcy Ave|
|Transport:||Subway: L to Bedford Ave|
|Price:||Average main course: $17. MC, V|
|Opening hours:||Daily 6pm–midnight|
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