I pass Metacom Kitchen every day on my way to work. It’s on a one-way stretch of Metacom Avenue that funnels drivers into one lane out of the East Bay towards the highway. Between morning traffic, the surrounding neglected properties and the build.ing’s former incarnation as a dive bar, the location’s aura does not scream fine dining. I’ve actually talked myself out of going to Metacom Kitchen before: there’ll be traffic, there won’t be parking. Wrong on all counts. Here’s my advice on Warren’s Metacom Kitchen – just go. Don’t think about where it is, don’t ask too many people for their opinion – just go. See – and eat – for yourself.
It turns out that traffic isn’t so bad in the evening and the restaurant has a parking lot across the street (though drive slow or you’ll blow right by it). The vibe is relaxed, urban sophisticate with a soft, dark palette and dimly lit with soothing tunes. A large bar with a view of the open kitchen makes for the perfect after work respite, and you’ll feel more West Village than Warren.
Since it was after work, we began with a round of cocktails. The 322 Martini ($11) with Crop Organic Cucumber Vodka, St. Germain and a splash of grapefruit juice was a simple, zesty start, but the Metacom Mule ($9) was truly intriguing. The cocktail itself is not too complicated – Tito’s Hand-Made Vodka and Barritt’s ginger beer mixed with a splash of pomegranate molasses simple syrup and fresh lime. But the enigmatic part is that it’s served in a copper mug. The copper mug insulates the chilled drink on the inside, and blocks the outside light and body heat of your hand – meaning your drink stays icy cold throughout the entire meal. There’s no better way to enjoy a cocktail on a hot summer day.
A knock I've heard on Metacom Kitchen is that for the price, the portions are small. Our first appetizer – the Golden Beet Salad ($9) – represented everything that is right and wrong with that statement. The plate was beautifully prepared with red beet carpaccio, shaved goat cheese, pistachio, endive, horseradish cloumage and cumin-mustard oil arranged like bite-size sushi pieces. When it arrives to your table, yes, your first reaction might be “Hmmm… there’s not much there.” But I don’t think it matters. First, it’s delicious – the beets burst with juiciness and were some of the best I’ve ever had. Second, as I’ve said before, you rarely need as much food as you think you do – and this is only the first course anyway.
The portions also depend on what you order. Our second appetizer, the Coriander and Sea Salt Chicken Wings ($11), was quite filling on its own. The wings were a little different – dry on the outside but very moist on the inside. They were accompanied by charred onions, which made for a nice twist – instead of dunking your wings in hot sauce or blue cheese as is often the case, you could pile on a forkful of onions and eat your wings with an actual topping.
A great steak is just a great steak, but add great sides and you have a great meal. The Slow Roasted Prime Hanger Steak ($24) is brilliantly composed with red wine shallots, braised lettuce, oyster mushrooms, béarnaise potato puffs and long peppercorn bordelaise. Again, You'll see sliced medallions of meat rather than a hulking slab spilling off your plate, but after a few bites you’ll be reveling in the fantastic flavors and textures. We also tried the House Made Spinach Fettucini ($18) with braised lamb, roasted garlic, basil and Pecorino Romano. The sauce was more of a light broth than a rich sauce, making it just right for a warm evening. A final note on entrees according to our server: the chef has become quite known for his duck dishes. While we are not duck enthusiasts, those who are will usually find nightly duck-based specials.
We capped off our meal with the Coffee Cardamom Crème Brulee ($6). It was interesting to try a flavored crème brulee, but it did not seem to be as dense as the traditional preparation. I’m not sure I’d make the same tradeoff again, but at least now I can say I tried it and I know for myself. You should do the same with Metacom Kitchen.
322 Metacom Avenue