The first time I went to Clearwater, on a grim November evening with lashing rain and wind whipping in off the Hudson, it took me a full few minutes find the entrance. Turns out, itâ€™s â€œdown the side, not through the door â€“ thatâ€™s an apartment â€“ through the gate into a deserted courtyard, and up the steps.â€ That is the actual text message I sent to Jon, who arrived, damply, a few minutes later.
â€œ$13 for a cocktail, and they canâ€™t afford to put up a sign?â€ he said, peeling off his coat.
But then the charm starts to take a hold of you and the pisco, yuzu, angostura bitters and egg white froth cocktail kicks in, and everything mellows right out, and the candles flicker and a burst of fragrant steam hisses in from the open kitchen, and someone passes you a little bowl of roasted Marcona almonds and you start to feel just perfect, thank you.
Once in, Clearwater is a pretty straightforward set up in the natural-y organic-y American Modern vibe: seasonal flowers, candles in jars, a beautiful slab-of-wood bar along the open kitchen for those night when you want to relax with a glass of wine and watch other people working their asses off. Thereâ€™s a sunken dining room, packed with people with immaculate highlights. Itâ€™s all very stylish in a laid-back way that you just know takes precision planning.
We kicked things off with roasted delicata squash, butternut squash dumplings and a sage fondu.Â Seriously. A cheesy sage fondu with things made from squash to eat with it. Unceremoniously, we wolfed it.
Jon moved onto a meltingly tender hanger steak, accompanied by a potato gratin, fragrant with thyme and a bed of black kale. The bosky flavors and deep rich colors adding up to a pre-Raphaelite fantasy plate. The kind of food Dante Gabriel would have fed to Elizabeth Siddal after a vigorous afternoon of paining and making out in the studio, if black kale had been a thing back then. I had butter clams with little puffs of gnocci in a light bullion brightened with parsley and lemon.
The slightly redundantly named Apple Tarte Tatain was dark with glistening caramel â€“ apparently, a sea salt caramel, though it tasted just like caramel caramel, which I was fine with because honestly, why would you salt sweet apples? Anyway, it came with a perfect pearl of vanilla ice cream.
Thatâ€™s how Clearwater took up residence in our hearts and stomachs. Itâ€™s where weâ€™ve celebrated friendâ€™s birthdays, taken visiting parents and godparents, where weâ€™ve toasted such momentous life events as Getting Through March 2013 and Dan’s 30th Birthday. Itâ€™s an ideal place to unwind and eat the season, with a constantly changing menu and a list of specials that genuinely make you re-think menu choices when you hear them. Itâ€™s great. Basically. As long as you can just bloody find it.
Whatâ€™s the damage?
Appetizers â€“ $8 â€“ 15 ish
Mains – $20 â€“ 25 ish
Cocktails – $13
Clearwater -Â 447 Hudson Street (actually through a gate on Morton Street) 212 989 3255