A couple weekends ago, Lisa and I stopped by at The Leadbelly on the Lower East Side to satiate our long-time craving for some oysters. The Leadbelly is a cocktail and oyster bar run by the same team behind The Fat Radish which "boasts a generous selection of East Coast oysters, seasonal cocktails, and hearty bar snacks."
Additionally, The Leadbelly has live performances each night and daily happy hour specials from 6 to 8 PM, which include select oysters, beers, and cocktails at half price.
Lounge area at the front of the restaurant.
Inside The Leadbelly.
Gawk-worthy raw bar. Look at those beauts!
The dining area at the restaurant's rear. Love the worn-in den feeling!
In lieu of a bread basket, lightly salted popcorn was served. Yum!
To start, I had the Nice and Stormy with Blackwell rum, lime, ginger beer, and fresh ginger. Lisa had the special cocktail that had elderflower I believe. Both were really refreshing and well-made -- a nice balance of sweet and spirit.
Starting at five/six o'clock, beginning and ending with the same oysters to make a full dozen:
- Kumamoto from Totten Inlet, WA: A solid favorite, as always with a buttery texture that is both smooth and sweet and finishes with a light hint of honeydew melon.
- Hama Hama from Hood Canal, WA: Plump with a subtle salinity, some cucumber notes, and a sweet vegetal finish.
- Chatham from Chatham, MA: A little brinier, but still good.
- Northern Cross from Cheraton, VA: Briny and vegetal with a walnut and celery-like finish.
- Barcat from East Coast: Not bad -- quite decent for a buck! :)
Except with our experience at Maison Premiere, Lisa and I rarely are able to say that we have thoroughly enjoyed any given selection of oysters at a restaurant. I am happy to report that The Leadbelly joins this exception -- great to have an oyster bar go-to on the Manhattan side, even with the handful of varieties offered here.
As for snacks/bites, Lisa and I tried the Salvatore ricotta and spring pea crostini. Normally, I can't digest too much ricotta, but this threw any and all of my reservations out the window when I took my first bite of it. It had a light and fresh, not-too-dense creaminess to it, further honed by the snappy spring peas and spring herbs. So, so, so good! I'm now inspired to make a similar dish like this at home with fresh farmers' market ricotta -- thanks, Leadbelly!
Obviously, Lisa and I couldn't go the evening without ordering truffle fries -- thick-cut "chips" with truffle and Parmesan. Even though they were thick, chunky wedges of potato, they were thoroughly cooked with a fluffy interior and super crispy skin. The amount of truffle oil was heavenly, and the sprinkling of Parmesan was a nice touch (even for me!). Plus, the garlic aioli that came with it just made it even more awesome.
We also had the lamb sliders with roasted garlic, tzatziki, and brioche bun. It was the perfect ratio of lamb, tzatziki, and brioche -- not too much sauce, not too much bread, and just enough meat to fill a slight craving.
Findings: Lisa and I really enjoyed the small plated fare at The Leadbelly -- just what we're always looking for, especially when it comes to having quite a decent selection of quality oysters available to order from a raw bar like this one. The cocktails are also very refreshing and well made, and we found most of the menu isn't too expensive. The atmosphere is relaxed and chill -- ideal for playing catchup with a close friend or two. I definitely foresee The Leadbelly in Lisa and I's future eating adventures.
Price point: $34 for a full dozen order of oysters, $8-10 for each plate.
--May 4, 2013
14 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002