Decades ago, Mad magazine did a send-up of Baskin-Robbins in which the flavor of the month was halvah lasagna chip. Who knew the zany staff at Mad were food trend prognosticators? Fast forward to the here and now, where the fusion of disparate cuisines has yielded such unlikely culinary hybrids as bacon-egg-and-donut burgers and matzoh ball ramen with Canadian bacon.
But there is no rule stating that the movement toward good-for-a-laugh can’t occasionally spawn a creation that is good, period. Smile when you say foie gras fig Newtons or boudin noir corn dogs—two highlights on the menu of two-month-old Quarter—or don’t. You’ll smile in any case after your first bite, because whimsy aside, the kitchen, overseen by veteran Jason Avery, is dead serious about every morsel that reaches the dining room.
And most of it is exceptional. Morsel pretty much sums up Taylor Bay scallops, featured among the small plates. Each of the four silky mollusks is daintily wrapped in tuna, pickled shiitake, and dice of cucumber, tinctured with wasabi and mustard oil: a stunning dish. The pork belly buns offered some nights pass the “crackling-crisp exterior around warming succulent meat” test. An adult with a healthy appetite could easily dispatch ten of them.
But don’t. You’ll want to keep space for these main courses, among them a deftly cooked section of silver hake that arrives knee-deep in a polished lobster Chardonnay butter, accompanied by braised kale and chanterelles. The tender glossy meat of a grilled two-story-high pork chop is set off by housemade wasabi apple sauce, crispy nori, and sweet soy.
The occasionally available chocolate peanut butter mousse (more pudding than mousse, but good for that) is a strong contender in the citywide quest for desserts that sound both sweet and salty notes. The brioche bread pudding is fabulous.
The storefront the restaurant calls home is a snip of a place, with maybe seating for 30. The interiors are simple, mostly polished blond wood with bare-topped tables and padded side chairs that are surprisingly comfortable. A food-first restaurant.
Price range: At dinner: $6 to $15 for starters, $15 to $29 for main courses.
Quarter, 522 Hudson Street, bet 10th and Charles Sts, New York, N.Y., (212) 691-3252. Open seven days for dinner, weekends for brunch, weekdays for lunch. Major credit cards are accepted.