I can think of few better places to spend April than August, a charming new restaurant on ultra-hot Bleecker Street. This petite, homey eatery (it now seats just 26—a capacity that will double when the backyard garden opens later this spring) has taken over Café Picasso, and replaced it with an artfully thought-out Pan-European menu with a specific focus on brick-oven cooking. The results are deliciously hearty but not overly winter-like. (Co-owner Jason Hennings promises some lighter specials as the season progresses.)
Whether you are deux, tres or quatro, start by splitting the delicious tarte flambé; pizza dough topped with crème fraiche, grilled onions and lots of luscious lardons. (Health food, it's not!) Heading far south from the Alsace, the Portugese grilled octopus is tender and flavorful, with a light but well-balanced dressing, and accompanied by al dente chickpeas.
Rarely do I order chicken when I am at a first-rate restaurant, but I would happily dine weekly (if not nightly) on the house's delectably crispy wood-roasted chicken (cooked the Italian way, under a brick) set atop addictively creamy polenta and crowned with a few wild mushrooms. Fish fanciers will likely head toward bass a la grecque, but don't pass up the frequent special of roasted cod in a sweet garlic broth chock full of cockles and chorizo. The fashionable young woman at the next table raved to her friend about having previously had the spaghetti carbonara, and was eagerly awaiting the dry aged sirloin served with an authentic Yorkshire pudding, as well as a side of the excellent grilled raddichio with a tangy anchovy dressing.
Even one of the house's desserts comes straight from the oven – a superb apple gratin that's large enough for two. Pieces of apple also show up in the generously sized beignets, which I would actually prefer for breakfast (which the restaurant plans to serve later this year). Chocoholics will delight in the perfectly prepared pot au crème – they may not, however, want to share.
The restaurant's name has many references, from the August red onion (which serves as its logo) to Augustus Caesar. And with food fit for a king, that's just fine.