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Apartment 13: Dining out with the cozy comforts of home

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Apartment 13

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After a day of working your tail off, the idea of decompressing over a delicious meal complemented by enticing beverages sounds pretty appealing. The last thing you want to do, however, is wait an hour on a reservation or struggle to make sense of the weird mix of ingredients in your entrée. Dinner should be about comfort, intimacy, and simply satisfying one’s appetite. With Apartment 13, partners chef John Keller (Dinner on Ludlow, CO-OP Food & Drink) and Lorrae Doig have taken all this to heart in creating an extension to their own home where diners are invited to experience the ultimate dinner party.

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Located on Avenue C (Losaida Avenue) in Alphabet City, Apartment 13 has become an instant neighborhood favorite serving up sophisticated dishes and cocktails sans pretentiousness, while celebrating the area’s Latino and Caribbean roots. Apartment 13 embraces the neighborhood’s historical and cultural richness through its warm décor and versatile yet familiar menu.

Apartment 13 resides in a former tenement building offering a split-level layout to cater to your unwinding needs. A large chandelier hanging from the high ceiling and exposed brick décor offer an elegant and cozy backdrop—the working fireplace is a nice bonus. It gives way to the perfect ambience for an intimate gathering with friends or loved ones. Enjoy the outdoors a bit by dining al fresco by candlelight on the back deck if you prefer.

Chef Keller has teamed up with beverage gurus Steven Olson and Leo DeGroff to offer an extensive beverage arsenal that offers something for everyone. The wine list spans the globe uncovering hidden gems from lesser known wine purveyors in Greece (Domaine Sigalas), Austria (Grüner Veltliner), and Chile (Casa Lapostolle), as well as more recognizable blends from Spain (Cámara Alta), Australia (Thomas Goss), and Italy (Allegrini) mixed in with a few from domestic wineries (Owen Roe).

Mr. Olson and Mr. DeGroff have collaborated with Chef Keller in putting together a cocktail list that shares mutual ingredients with the cuisine. The menu offers a mix of classic and contemporary cocktails ranging from simple libations to more complex concoctions, and it complements the Japanese and Caribbean influences found in Chef Keller’s dishes. Escape to the beach with the Jamaica ($13) featuring 7 Leguas Blanco tequila, hibiscus, strawberries, and a splash of lime. Mix your sherry with the berries with the sherry berry cobbler ($13) featuring four different types of sherry infused with strawberries, lemon, agave and a blackberry floater.

Beer lovers will appreciate the availability of several locally brewed beers (Captain Lawrence, Ommegang) on tap along with a nice range of international choices, including a few from the Caribbean. Finally, a selection of sakes complements the various Japanese-infused dishes quite well.

As a veteran chef who trained at Nobu, Le Bernardin, and Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club, Keller puts forth an inviting menu that fuses together his love for the American brasserie with a mix of Japanese and Caribbean flavors—an ode to his culinary journey. As with his previous stint at Dinner on Ludlow, Chef Keller continues to adhere toward a sustainable approach working with local farms as much as possible.

Seafood lovers will want to sample some oysters from the raw bar or simply feast on the hamachi crudo ($14) featuring a smoke tomato ponzu (Japanese citrus-based vinaigrette) and yuzukoshō (a chili pepper-based seasoning) all topped with garlic chips and a sprinkle of micro cilantro. The ingredients complement each other quite nicely. Continue on the Japanese kick with the fish sticks ($14)—chunks of black cod marinated in a light miso sauce served on butter lettuce and topped with shredded phyllo.

Chef Keller’s roots come to light with Mimi’s Maryland crabcakes ($13), his family’s recipe featuring tender lumps of delicious crabmeat topped with diced mango and Caribbean-based Scotch bonnet pepper chutney, and complemented by an exquisite coconut crema. Nothing gets lost in this delicious interpretation. Chefs everywhere should take note because this is by far one of the best crabcakes outside the Old Line State.

For the main course, Chef Keller tackles a bit of everything from the Burger ($15), featuring Creekstone Farms grass-fed beef topped with crunchy Applewood smoked bacon, and manchego cheese with a zesty harissa aioli drizzle served on an English muffin, to fish tea ($28)—pan seared Atlantic cod, served in a subtle miso butter broth mixed with lemongrass dashi, baby bok choy, and hon shimeji mushrooms.

For a Caribbean vibe, consider the pozole & chicharron ($23)—pork belly confit marinated in Del Maguey mezcal and served in a smoked tomato and fresh corn based stew. Your meal is not complete unless you order a side of bacon-broccolini mac & cheese ($7)—savory pasta, diced veggies, and bacon accents —perfect for sharing.

Cap off dinner with an order of honey nut churros ($9) served with a honey spiced compote and a rum spiked apple cider—a unique take offering up a delicious blend of flavors that will satisfy your sweets craving.

For diners wishing to sample some of the various beverages during the meal, Mr. Olson and Mr. DeGroff take away the guesswork and suggest a sampling of cocktails, and wine for each of Chef Keller’s dishes.

At the end of the day, dinner should simply be about a comforting space in which to enjoy a meal with a drink or two. Apartment 13 hits the mark with its warm and cozy ambience and mouthwatering menu to boot. For Chef Keller and Ms. Doig, Apartment 13 is a labor of love. It’s not unusual to see them personally check in on guests throughout the evening. After all, their goal is to make diners feel right at home. Mission accomplished.

115 Avenue C (Losaida Avenue)
New York, New York 10009
917-475-1213
www.apt-13.com

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