1. The kale Caesar salad is great - impressively tender, with a sharp and peppery dressing that has a good jolt of acidity. Likewise, the beet and blue cheese salad makes for a gorgeous plate and a solid rendition of a fairly common salad. A touch of wasabi gives a small and welcome tweak.
2. Cocktails show a ton of promise, but having a string hanging over the edge of your glass (as in a tea bag, in a drink called the March Hare) is not the most visually appealing effect.
3. Speaking of the bar, it's a bit awkward - an open space in the middle of the restaurant where the bartender works off a little island rather than behind an actual bar. That said, I like the interactive intent of it.
4. Did I mention the wine list? It may be my favorite in town, battling with the slightly more upper crust but equally appealing menu at Empire State South. Major props. And a good number of the wines come by the glass.
5. Of the more basic dishes, the meatball sandwich is quite righteous - simple and hearty.
6. Desserts have been consistently excellent. A pecan treacle tart showed that a British perspective might just be able to improve upon our Southern staple pecan pie. And the malted barley panna cotta with popped sorghum? Another very smart play between contrasting textures that adds intrigue to the dessert course.
7. "Canned soup" - served in a can. Gimmicky? Yes. Fun? Also, yes.
8. If you want to learn more about this restaurant, go back and watch the recent episodes of Life After Top Chef for Blais' insider commentary (and cameos by much of the rest of the gang from the Spence). Fast forward over all the segments with Fabio and Spike and Jennifer Carroll. Trust me.
9. The background music is highly eclectic and fun. Blais loves Wu Tang Clan. I approve.
10. The Spence is also open for lunch. During daytime hours, the restaurant is a bit calmer, and certainly more light-filled. The lunch menu favors sandwiches and salads, though some of the Spence's signature items - Juicy Lucy and Oysters & Pearls included - are there as well.
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"Fire!" - Beavis