Several years ago, I enjoyed a delightful dinner at Little Fish in Queen Village. Chef Ian Moroney was in the kitchen turning out simple yet delicious seafood, while Hillary Bor served as hostess and waitress and kept the packed-like-sardines patrons quite content.
Last fall, Moroney and Bor joined culinary forces and opened Pumpkin at 1713 South St. They are pioneers: The Graduate Hospital area needed a fine restaurant, and now it has one.
Pumpkin seats about 28 in a shoe-box space. The walls are painted a warm sage green; tables are set with crisp linen. Our reservation was for 5:45 p.m., and several patrons already were enjoying dinner. By the time we left, the place was filled to capacity and people were waiting for their tables.
The seasonal menu changes daily. We liked the fact that there were only 10 tempting items on the menu – five appetizers, five entrées, obviously carefully planned. Our server opened our wine and offered fresh crusty bread from a European basket. We also received a dish of rich green extra-virgin olive oil studded with roasted garlic cloves.
I rarely pass up quail, and Moroney’s version ($10) was scrumptious. He thoughtfully removed the breast bones from the good-sized little bird, which makes for easier eating. The quail was grilled to a juicy perfection and sauced with chopped sweet figs, balsamic vinegar and a mix of fresh citrus juices.
Edward’s scallops ($9.25) also were very good. Four immaculately fresh, plump mollusks were seared until just translucent. The sauce, more akin to a light soup, was a light yet heady mixture of saffron, cream and dry vermouth – great for bread-dipping, too.
We shared the grilled romaine salad ($7.50), which consisted of a whole heart of romaine that was quickly grilled and topped with a light vinaigrette laced with slightly salty Pecorino cheese. The lettuce was slightly wilted, as it should be, yet retained a bit of crispness.
My pork loin entrée ($17) consisted of some 6 ounces of beautifully roasted meat from a top-quality boneless tenderloin. It was set atop a generous mound of green Le Puy lentils, which are imported from France, in a dreamy mustard sauce with bits of bacon.
Edward’s short ribs ($22) were slow-braised and served with their natural tasty pan juices. He received sautéed spinach and a gratin of potato, which paired well with the beef. I asked our waitress if I could have a side dish of any green vegetable Moroney might have, and she brought a hefty portion of the sautéed spinach ($3.25), which rounded out my pork dinner quite nicely.
Desserts are $6.50 each, and my pot du crème – the French version of chocolate pudding – took me back to Paris. It was prepared with rich dark chocolate and topped with a light cream.
A good-sized slice of homemade spice cake, redolent with cinnamon, was another winner. It was served with a poached spiced pear, enhanced by the syrup it was cooked in. If you go for the gelato, you get three generous scoops of the flavor of the day. Ours, prepared with rich dark chocolate, was one of the best I’ve tasted in any restaurant.
Service was first-rate. Bor and two other servers watched the tables, served and cleared with ease, changed the flatware for each course and repeatedly offered more bread without any of us having to ask for it.
Moroney and Bor have blazed the trail for restaurant dining in the Graduate Hospital area. They wanted a small neighborhood BYOB where patrons would become regulars, bring a good bottle of wine and enjoy Moroney’s marvelous menu – and they got it right.
Three tips of the toque to Pumpkin.
1713 South St.
Reservations an absolute must