Call it mostly Mediterranean and note it throbs with energy. Welcome to Tessa, a yearling-plus eatery that's justifiably popular judging from the crowd, talking, eating and having a good time.
Up front, the bar crowd skews younger than the restaurant proper that's largely 40s through 60s. White-washed brick, an interesting metal ceiling and dim lighting, the work of architectural firm BatesMasi, give the place a chic industrial vibe--even the unisex loos, (one on the main level, three downstairs), with handsome stone sinks are stylish.
First comes good bread delivered with a pat of soft butter in a pool of olive oil. Executive Chef Edwin Claflin, a veteran of DB Moderne, Daniel and WD50, sends forth interesting, tasty dishes like the appetizer of mixed cauliflowers with celery root, apple and pistachios. A trio of dips including carrot harissa; smoked eggplant; ricotta and cucumber, arrives with lavash while the Maine mussels are huge and tender although their broth could use more kick. Burrata, often a bore, here is appropriately creamy, perched on arugula with olives and aged balsamic dressing.
Many dishes are designed for sharing so you could split a half portion of pasta like the cavatelli with a rabbit/pancetta ragu or just wolf a full portion, it's that good ($19/29). Linguini with Tasmanian pepper and lemon suffers from its over-salty Parmigiano topping. Other shareables include cheese and salami boards, the latter with rabbit pate and Iberico lomo among other treats. A serious nod is made to "seasonal" like my entrée, a coq au vin riff that was fall-off-the- bone tender with fall mushrooms. Alongside I lapped up shaved Brussels sprouts with pancetta, roast heirloom squashes and spatzle with a crisp finish. Other mains include several fish entrées, a pork chop and duckling with mustard greens and plums ($32.)
For a sweet finale, the bread pudding was buttery and laced with pumpkin seeds; there's a Chocolate Cremeux with salted caramel mousse and both the vanilla ice cream swirled with pear and the bourbon caramel sing.
There are 16 wines available by the glass, many bottles, a special Reserve list, and ten beers on tap. The full bar yields all manner of cocktails and numerous dessert wines.
The dining room is overseen by charming Service Director Patrick Duxbury who, together with owners Will Tracy and Larry Bellone, make an A1 team that includes pastry chef Yarisis Jacobo. The entire effort earned the eatery a 2015 Michelin nod.
Tessa seats up to 65 in the main dining room with another 50 in the bar area. There is a private room for 16 at the rear and a sidewalk café in warm weather. Dinner service starts at 5 PM and runs until midnight Thursdays through Saturdays. Catering available; all major credit cards. Tessa is handy for the Beacon Theater and Lincoln Center, very welcome in a part of town that has suffered from a lack of imaginative eating spots. Not anymore.