[SEAFOOD, EAT IT] In practice, the luxe Grand Central Station space of Irving Street Kitchen is a bastion of the deeply gentrified Pearl. But in spirit it's an upscale country wedding, with bumpkins in pressed suits and the senator dressed like a "man of the people." Chef Sarah Schafer's ever-changing dinner menu is a self-conscious high-low hybrid of French-trained down-home comforts, just like the wine the restaurant awkwardly serves in Mason jars. But while your curried lamb porterhouse will come out wonderfully salty and tender and the fried chicken and smashed potatoes are a menu regular—with a breast so garlicky, for better or worse, you'd swear it's injected beneath the thickly crispy skin—Schafer's actual magic lies in the deft subtlety she brings to seafood. The humble chicken-fried oysters on a recent visit were delicate in their breading and warmly tender within, with no need whatsoever of the herbsaint aioli served as dip. The house-cured gravlax appetizer was likewise a marvel of restraint, stopping short of an all-too-common overacidity. But the halibut bouillabaisse was the showpiece, with clam, octopus and seared halibut supporting an herb medley within a pungent fish broth spiced up with garlic and a hint of jalapeño; it was the old French wharf feast made both elegant and approachable. Always close your meal with the signature butterscotch pudding, and try not to get any on your necktie. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Make your reservation for 7:15 pm and park in the nearby loading zone right just as it becomes legal. (Actually, always do this when dining in the Pearl.)