At the Oscars, it isn’t always the best movie that wins. Generally, the film that takes home the naked golden statue of a man holding a sword is the one that everyone can more-or-less agree on. Like Forrest Gump, The Departed, or that movie about the janitor with a super-high security clearance who catches feelings for a fish deity. These are objectively well-made films with wide appeal, and if Simon & The Whale were a movie, it’d be one of them.
Simon & The Whale is from the same people behind Fedora, Joseph Leonard, and Bar Sardine - and if all of those little West Village spots are indie films, this one’s more of a blockbuster. It’s in the bottom of the Freehand Hotel (on the border of Kips Bay and Gramercy), and it’s a well-designed space where you can eat some very good food while you celebrate something, even if it’s just the fact that it’s a Friday and you aren’t currently doing whatever it is you get paid to do.
Take a look at the menu and squint, and it’ll mostly seem Mediterranean. But once your food arrives, you’ll find that it’s more interesting than about 99% of the stuff at other restaurants that also serve bass crudo and broccoli rabe. The crudo comes covered in coconut milk, for example, and this is probably the only place in the city where you can get a roasted chunk of cauliflower covered in lamb tongue pastrami. It’s great, and you should order it - and you should also know that even the straightforward things like arctic char tartare are worth your time.
Everyone’s going to find something to eat here, and the whole experience is as fancy as you make it. The space feels like a large study, with gold light fixtures, tiled walls, and wood-paneled ceilings - and if you want to wear shorts and a t-shirt, that’s fine. Although if you’re in a suit because you just came from work or a bat mitzvah, you won’t feel out-of-place. Service is top-notch, and you can either have a very nice date night here, or stop by for a fish sandwich on a Wednesday night.
Although if you try to get a seat here last-minute, you’ll probably face a wait. And that’s because this is an all-around exceptional restaurant. Sure, there might not be any one dish that really sticks out and haunts your dreams - but, like pretty much any Best Picture winner, you can count on the fact that it’ll impress most people. Maybe you’ll even fall in love with it, the same way certain people really like Titanic or (for some reason) American Beauty. And even if you don’t become a die-hard fan of this place, you can be confident that you’ll at least eat something good and have a nice time.
These are four fried balls of dough with bacon and cheese mixed in. You should, of course, start your meal with them.
This is just a tiny jar of smoked mussels with some crackers and creme fraiche. It isn’t something you absolutely need to order, but it’s a nice snack.
Lots of places serve some kind of fish tartare, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this one. It’s fresh and flavorful, and comes on a crispy piece of toast that easy to split between two people.
Good-sized pieces of raw bass covered in shiso and coconut milk. If you’re the crudo type, you’ll like this.
This might just look like a bowl of sliced vegetables. But those vegetables are covered in a dressing that we like, and there’s also some goat cheese hidden underneath. We’d eat this again.
A straightforward piece of breaded and fried pork. It isn’t revolutionary, but there aren’t many scenarios in which you regret ordering this.
With the soft poppy seed bun and flavorful slaw, this is one of the of the better sandwiches we’ve eaten. It almost seems like something Burger King would serve in some kind of alternate universe in which Burger Kings served better food.