92 Calyer St, Greenpoint
4 out of 5 L's
If you bring a date to Calyer and it doesn’t go well, you can only blame yourself. This Greenpoint nook, brought to you by the owners of Annella and St. Vitus, owes much of its old-timey coziness to its domed ceiling, lined with narrow panels that are painted deep green. The dark, time-worn ceiling soaks up the glow of bare-bulbed pendant lamps, making it seem as though the entire space were tinted and muted by a flattering Instagram filter. Over the stereo speakers Tom Waits meets T. Rex in a playlist that complements the moody room, polished cocktails and rather glam small plates. A hostess with a Southern drawl and toned biceps welcomes you with a warm smile, and a sprightly bartender with close-cropped hair springs out from behind the bar to embrace a couple of diners on their way out. There’s a lot of love in the room and your skin looks amazing. Don’t blow it, ok?
Pay attention to your date’s beverage selection and plan your banter accordingly. Will she stick with the time-tested Pisco Sour ($9) or opt for the girlier Siren Song ($9), a pisco drink with elderflower liqueur, sparkling cava and citrusy bergamot? Will he grab a Sixpoint Righteous Rye or sip a tart and elegant Chancellor cocktail ($10), made with Martin Miller’s gin, cynar (a bitter Italian aperitif), lemon and a sprinkling of toasted black pepper? If conversation falters, the wine list’s poetic descriptions offer much to discuss. There’s a Javier Sanz rueda that conjures “passionfruit, straw, cut grass and pheromones” and a Vina Santurnia rioja that promises notes of “bittersweet cocoa, your dad’s leather jacket, bright fruit.” (If the latter moves you to discuss your daddy issues, Dear Dater, please remind yourself to refrain.)
No matter what you eat here, Calyer’s small plates are pretty much the Holy Grail of date food: artistically and appealingly plated, rife with unexpected flavor combinations, easy to eat and—best of all—substantial enough to share. In a wide white bowl that’s smudged with a spiral of sweet potato puree, ocean-fresh scallop ceviche is topped with salty, crunchy corn nuts ($14). Thin ribbons of veal tongue, spun into bite-sized coils, arrive on a plate smeared with cooling crema fresca, paper-thin radish and jalapeño slices, daubs of pickled mustard seeds and dots of salsa fresca ($11). Deep-fried chicharrones are deliciously dressed in a bracing anchovy vinaigrette and grounded with a mellow white bean puree. The apple and panna cotta dessert ($5) doesn’t pack the wow-factor of the dishes that preceded it though—so seal the deal with another round of drinks.