Sparrow (5322 st- laurent) first came to my attention when a friend from out of town informed me that she was eating brunch “somewhere that just has a bird head for a sign,” and i had -n0 idea- what she was talking about. she said that the food was good, maybe a little pricey, and that it weirdly felt like the kind of place where you’d get your parents to take you (or where you would take your parents) when they were in town, except that it was full of hipsters.
this was a good year ago and i still as a point avoid “brunch” situations as much as possible, although i have been to Sparrow twice now myself, for a drink and a lunch, respectively.
the drink was a sazerac (the ordering of which i look back upon with mild horror, upon being informed that now everybody’s all into them as a result, i understand, of that show Treme? not that i have a problem with the show – i haven’t seen it, but look forward to doing so, as i like david simon, love jazz, and appreciate the denaturalization of ‘natural disasters’), the night was thursday, and the service, when one could get it, was pretty good. however, by what i can only imagine to be the result of strenuous calculation, despite the presence of three men behind the bar, it was almost impossible to order a drink, however Directly In Front of one of them you managed to be. (things get better though, don’t worry)
that said, the barman i eventually ensnared was amicable, efficient, and seemed genuinely interested in my drink. i think he too appreciated my attempt to order something requiring a few contortions in order to test the basic mettle of the operation.
i don’t know that i’d feel compelled to return under similar circumstances, but i can imagine it being a nice place to get a drink at a less voluble hour, for it really is a good-looking (ie: tastefully and intelligently decorated) establishment, with an air of self-satisfaction that is surprisingly tolerable. for my money, though, i’d probably just opt for one of the microbrasseries about town.
the lunch, just the other day, was, well, excellent. Sparrow is open maybe noon-3 on weekdays for lunch, then reopens for the dinner hour, and has what i gather to be a very protean menu, being reworked as often as every 3 days. lunch items largely ranged between 4.50$ and 14$, with a few higher priced items thrown in. of these, i was tempted by the lamb, but it was a hot fuckin’ day so i opted for something lighter – the wild striped bass with clams and chanterelles (whaaaaat?).
as you can well imagine, this was fucking delicious. i’ll admit i don’t know much (anything.) about bass (it’s a fish, yes? with i think a video game based on it?), so maybe it was a great bass, maybe it was a sub-par bass; i’m not the man to know. what i -can- say is that it was a delicately prepared, just barely seared (and maybe swiftly poached?) fish that was light without being insubstantial. the clams were honestly astonishing, and tasted like stormy little blasts of sweetish, briny muscle (yes, a musclestorm), their potent liquour playing well off the minerally smoothness of the fish. and chanterelles? well fuck, you know.
and it’s funny because i had twice in the past two weeks had discussions with people about the challenges of pairing mushrooms and seafood – in each instance fair accord was reached on the uncommonness of a happy association, although we granted a few exceptions, of course. it just seemed, with no better way to put one’s finger on it, that the meatiness of many mushrooms suggested an ill fit somehow with most fish, despite such complicating considerations as the often satisfying combination of meat and fish (bacon-wrapped scallops, anyone?), and the occasional fishiness of mushrooms themselves (e.g. oyster).
and now even that has gone out the window because i can’t say shit against Sparrow’s putting mushrooms with not just the one or the other, but both fish and shellfish. blast you and what you’ve given me.
alongside this i had a wonderful, simple salad of warm heirloom tomatoes in oil (the green sour ones, which looked like little watermelons, were my favourite), and a cup of eggplant soup – which was fine, but the only part of the meal which was merely fine. i’m happy to have not had a larger portion.
for wine i had the house white, which was a Les Jamelles sauvignon blanc, a Pays d’Oc wine that i’ve always understood to be a good go-to, but despite my certainty that i’d drank a bottle or two in my time, i had been unable to retain any firm impressions of. now i can happily say that i enjoyed it and will probably remember doing so for some time. it was dry and refreshing and just right for the occasion.
i don’t mean to give the impression that it was an amazing meal, but i must concede that it is a rare thing that i am so roundly satisfied by what a restaurant has to offer. it is a keen (more so for its uncommonness) pleasure to leave a restaurant not slightly haunted by the suspicion that one could have done it ever so slightly better, and in recognition of this, best believe i’ll return.
also, they were playing talking heads. bonus points.
NB: cash only. limited, but decent vegetarian options, vegan not so much.