When Peter Hoffman closed the doors of Savoy in SoHo last year, the hue and cry from both long-time regulars and casual fans of the iconic space was instant and fierce. After all, the 21-year-old Savoy was one of the first, if not the actual first, farm-to-table restaurants in New York City, serving the sort of “haute barnyard cuisine”, in the words of New York Magazine’s Adam Platt, that has since become so common it doesn’t even count as a trend anymore.
Plus, Savoy’s beautiful corner building on cobble-stoned Crosby became something of an “old Soho” oasis once all the chain stores and gimmicky eateries moved into the neighborhood. Not to worry, said Hoffman, who had plans to reinvent the space, but keep it distinctly his own. And, as it turns out, he was right.
Back Forty West, Peter Hoffman’s new Soho restaurant in the old Savoy space, served dinner for the first time recently, and I was fortunate enough to be able to get there on opening night.
I say fortunate because Back Forty West is an exceptionally pleasant place in which to hang out, whether you’re downstairs in the new bar area, windows flung open wide to the Soho streets and all of that great people-watching; or seated in the dining room on the second floor, which is pretty, bright, and welcoming.
Even more to the point, fortunate because the food coming out of the Back Forty West kitchen, courtesy of the original Back Forty’s (still going strong in the East Village) original chef Shanna Pacifico was, in a word, delicious.
Just about everything on the Back Forty West menu sounds appealing, and the prices are remarkably low, especially for this part of town, so it’s really easy to over-order. Which is fine, go ahead! You can just eat less tomorrow.
Anyway, I started with the superb Shaved Celery Root and Roasted Forest Mushroom Salad, tossed with plenty of mustard greens, just enough tangy buttermilk dressing, and, in a genius textural move, a handful of crisp and chewy puffed black rice. This is a large bowl of fresh, bold, really good food for only $10.
Next up was the entree-ish course (the Back Forty West menu is kind of too-cutesy-ily divided into sections like “Fork”, “Hands”, “Spoon”, but you can get a sense of portion sizes pretty easily), Montauk Squid a la Plancha, the tender grilled cephalopod served with spicy, buttery potatoes and celery greens. The dish needed some salt and pepper, maybe, but that was easy enough to fix.
There was also a special side that I definitely didn’t need, but also couldn’t resist: a bowl of Bits and Beans, the “bits” being the ends and hunks of various meats from Back Forty West’s in-house smoker.
Given it’s gentle pricing, comfortable space, and first-rate food, Back Forty West is sure to be a big Soho hit, a destination restaurant that’ll pack in the locals as well. Back Forty West is located on the corner of Prince and Crosby streets, and is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For more information and a look at all of the Back Forty West menus, check out the restaurant’s website.
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