Walk into Red Paper Clip, and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived embarrassingly early to a dinner party. Or maybe a 48-hour pop-up where the organizers pulled an all-nighter just to get the walls painted, and didn’t have time to worry about things like hanging art or printing menus. It’s not what you might expect from a West Village tasting menu spot run by chefs who worked at Blue Hill At Stone Barns, and considering it’ll set you back $95 per person before drinks, the boring space makes you think, “Well, the food better be good.”
It is good, and at moments, it’s great. But overall, Red Paper Clip isn’t consistently impressive enough to justify the high price tag with so little fanfare.
The tasting menu at Red Paper Clip changes seasonally, but you can expect whatever six dishes that come out of the kitchen to be full of surprises. Like a bridesmaid’s toast or the TV show Lost, you’ll end up wishing it was more coherent, but the high points make the whole ride worth it. Dinner will involve usual tasting menu suspects like caviar with oysters and slow-cooked short rib, but it’s the potatoes in both of these courses that are the unexpected showstoppers. About halfway through the two-hour dinner, the best dish of the night arrives - an everything brioche with creamy egg yolks, trout lox, and trout roe. All of the layers dissolve when you bite into it, and function like a prescription-strength remedy for Russ & Daughters withdrawal. At this point in the meal, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a bare-walled pop-up or the courtyard at The Cloisters, because this phenomenal breakfast sandwich will have your undivided attention.
Not all of the dishes at Red Paper Clip work as well as the short rib or brioche, mostly because they prioritize creativity over flavor. There’s celtuce served with a cup of celtuce leaf tea, which means one-sixth of your expensive meal is basically a palate cleanser. Then comes the soup dumpling agnolotti, which is like the underperforming offspring of two famous parents. And the lobster three ways - butter-poached, fried, and cooked with rice - is original, but you’re left wanting more meat and less pretense.
With the optional wine pairing, dinner at Red Paper Clip comes out to more than $200 per person. And while that price point puts it firmly in special occasion territory, there’s nothing special enough to warrant celebrating an anniversary or promotion here. But if you seek out unique dining experiences that are all about the food, then the trout lox brioche is fanfare enough on its own.
A tasting menu starting with oysters and caviar isn’t unusual, but what is unique here is the fact that those ingredients are outshined by the humble potato. The dense little cube of starch, which starts melting before you even bite into it, somehow tastes like a juicy bite of buttery meat.
Celtuce is like a cross between celery, lettuce, and asparagus, and this dish includes a few different presentations of it, including in a cup of tea that tastes like light miso soup. It’s about as interesting as celtuce gets, but the problem is celtuce just isn’t that interesting, and it’s disappointing as a full course in a very expensive meal.
If an ordinary breakfast sandwich got a Laney Boggs-level makeover, it would debut at prom as this brioche. The two slices of everything brioche dissolve like angel food cake, and the egg yolk between them is nearly as soft. Those layers are topped with trout lox and big spheres of trout roe, which are like tiny, delicious balloons filled with seawater.
The fact that this dish has two superstar parents makes us far less certain that Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf’s child will eventually win Wimbledon. The gingery, vinegary, pork broth is delicious, but it’s masked by thick, flavorless pasta shells, and the fresh truffle shaved on top doesn’t add anything, except a reminder of how big your bill is going to be.
Lobster is like The Star Spangled Banner - when people stray too far from the classic rendition, things go awry. This dish includes three different preparations - poached, fried, and cooked with rice - but none of them is as enjoyable as plain lobster meat with butter.
The extremely tender short rib with Sichuan peppercorns cooked in the bark is delicious, and it’s served alongside rich and airy potatoes, brassica that tastes like creamed spinach, and a bite of intensely meaty carpaccio topped with puffed tendon. Besides the brioche, this is the best dish here.
There’s nothing wrong with a couple bites of goat cheese or some grape sorbet, but they’d fit in better as a simple snack on your couch than as the final course of an otherwise very complex meal.