Friday, November 11, 2011

The Meatball Factory -- Top Chef Dave Martin's New Venue Isn't Just About The Meatballs! (CLOSED)

By: Anne M. Raso

We couldn't wait to visit The Meatball Factory, the brainchild of Top Chef Season 1 Finalist Dave Martin. Martin was actually on the scene at the restaurant, and was kind enough to answer any questions we had about our meal...and even brought over our "floatillas" at the end of the meal. (The mascarpone ice cream served in them is one of his sugar addict masterpieces!) He picked the decidedly non-foodie nabe of 14th Street and Second Avenue to open his casual eatery based on his love of--you guessed it--meatballs! (There used to be a food court featuring Arthur Treacher's and Taco Bell on the spot, as well as several other common fast food joints). As a result of his location choice, the crowd is young and hopping, and it is quite noisy, but diners can still carry on a conversation without raising your voice. Prices are right, too--the affable young chef pretty much keeps every item in the $8 to $15 price range.

We couldn't wait to start our meal off with Dave’s World Famous Black Truffle Mac ‘n’ Cheese ($11)--the dish that started the truffle mac craze when Dave did his stint on Top Chef! Let's not mince words here and say that the combination of fusilli pasta, parmigiano reggiano, garlic, heavy cream, truffle oil and fontina is about as close to foodie heaven as you are going to get and simply just forget the calories. This is a highly addicting dish that we recommend for the "last supper" of Death Row inmates everywhere!
Truffled Mac N' Cheese
Then it was time for Meatball Wonderland--we choose the Meatzza, Meatzza (Meatballs featuring ground Braised Certified Angus Beef Brand Short Ribs, Hanger Steak and Filet, Buffalo, Potato & Parmesan, $8) and the portion was generous. We got six large meatballs that were juicy and unforgettable. Our second meatball choice was the Cluck, Cluck (Meatballs featuring Bell & Evans Chicken, Esposito’s Chicken & Apple Sausage and White Wine, $8)--we liked these even better than the beef short rib meatballs, due to the unexpected juices that flowed out of them. The chicken meatballs are obviously the healthier choice but keep in mind that there is also a meatball dish named Vegan's Dream available made out of mushroom, asparagus, onions and other veggies that we here are a "fave rave" at the eatery!
Cluck Cluck Meatballs
Chef Dave says "it's all about the sauce" on his menu, so we picked three (you can get one sauce for each dish for free, or a trio of three for $4 extra). Our choices were Salsa Verde (Vegan Sauce made from Roasted Tomatillos, Fire Roasted Green Chili, Caramelized Sweet Onion, Lime Juice, Fresno Chiles, Cumin & Agave), Fire Roasted Marinara (created from Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic & Sweet Onion, Fresh Basil & Sherry and Hells Bells Vodka Sauce (made from Absolut Peppar, Spicy Cappicola, Red Bells, San Marzano Tomatoes, Oregano and Cream). All three sauces were rich and satisfying, but the Salsa Verde really kicked some butt without being too hot. If you prefer a garlicky taste, go for the Fire Roasted Marinara! Our side was the creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Puree (with a splash of cream, $5) and we have to comment that this delish dish has both cream and butter added, so it does not exactly count as a "healthy veggie." If you try it, you will come back for more, though!
Three Dipping Sauces: Marinara, Salsa Verde, and Hells Bells
Our shared dessert was San Pig Sticks (Slices of Nueske’s Wild Cherrywood Bacon served with Dave’s Malted Hot Fudge and Sea Salt Caramel for dipping, $6). While a lot of people might feel funny about dipping thick, firm artisan quality bacon in homemade dark chocolate or caramel dipping sauce, we dig not hesitate! It was a delight, even if it makes one feel like a bit of a piggy, LOL!
San Pig Sticks
Our meal concluded with Chef Dave himself bringing out our TMF Purple Cow Floatilla--Mascarpone Gelato in Fanta Grape Soda. Yes, it was as satisfying as it sounds and was served in a huge soda fountain glass that was about 24 ounces. We will be going back for the Dreamsicle Floatilla featuring Fanta Orange Soda and Mascarpone Gelato in the near future, but for real food adventurers, there is something called the English Bastard, which is mascarpone gelato in Newcastle Ale. Now there's an original dessert if there ever way one!

Overall, the atmosphere is airy and casual (with a lot of windows), and as mentioned before, diners tend to be on the young side...but do not let that keep you coming from this destined to be classic but modern "comfort food" establishment. Chef Dave deserves every bit of praise he's been getting from his new place! And he's bringing his great and very personal cuisine to a neighborhood that is short on comfort food!

The Meatball Factory
251 East 14th Street
New York, NY 10003
(212) 260-8015
Dress: casual
The Meatball Factory on Urbanspoon

[Photos: Anne M. Raso]

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