This was my husband’s Birthday Dinner 2: Family Edition and I chose the Partisan because we remembered it being great when we last came here a couple of years ago, plus he didn’t want to make a big deal out of his b-day (#introvertproblems). I was worried that The Partisan wouldn’t live up to my previously-founded high expectations.
First, I had forgotten about the beer list. It’s pretty incredible and included a lot of sours, so already they were on their way to high marks from me. We all had a drink at the bar while they got our table ready and everyone was in a good place.
Next, while the small-plates menu is not huge, I had somehow completely forgotten about the charcuterie list, which is kind of embarrassing considering that it’s Partisan/Red Apron’s claim to fame. I was trying not to over-overdo it, so I chose three interesting-sounding meats and let my mother-in-law pick the cheeses. Here’s what we got:
Left to right: Partisan’s special McGriddle-esque biscuits, smoked bleu cheese, Kunik goat cheese, bourbon-fig rillette, pig face biraldo, and the red menace ‘nduja. As soon as I ordered these, the sour beer set in and I immediately forgot what I had written down on their handy-dandy ordering sheet. So I’m not sure I tasted bourbon or figs in the pate-like rillette, but I also wasn’t looking for them because they’d completely slipped my mind. The biraldo was earthy, spicy, and salami-like, and the red menace was spicy, as advertised. I went with these weird-ass meats because I figured When in Rome. I kind of wish that these charcuterie plates came with some more interesting accompaniments, but in retrospect I think The Partisan does this intentionally because the meat and cheese need to stand alone. I respect that.
The main small plates came out rather fast after ordering them, but we hardly felt rushed. Here was the first round, from left to right: gose-braised rabbit, brussels sprouts, and shishito peppers.
I feel like this rabbit could have done better in the looks department, and also in the taste department. It had the texture of tuna casserole and the flavor of mustard, if mustard took a bunch of steroids and went to the gym everyday. Fortunately, it was only uphill from here. The sprouts were the perfect crispy crunch and went well with the pesto and grana padano. I mostly binged on the shishito peppers all night because they felt healthy and there was a mountain of them. They were cooked to a blistered softness.
Then came the fried chicken and the diver scallops. First, let me just say that I hate scallops. They usually taste like string cheese that has been living under the ocean. But these were great. Mostly they just tasted like butter. I loved the bitter chard with them as well. The friend chicken was so crispy on the outside, and the sweet and sour sauce on the side was wonderful too.
Now, here’s where our night got interesting. A server showed up to re-set the table for us as if we were anticipating another dish we hadn’t ordered. My husband immediately pointed the finger at his mother, who has a history of very conspicuously orchestrating surprises. When she swore it wasn’t her, it was decided that I must have said something, and while I swore up and down that I hadn’t mentioned anything to the hosts, I was stricken by fear that I’d put a note in the reservation that we were celebrating a birthday. I was also now working on my next cocktail, so I tried hard not to let on that I thought something might be amiss.
Dessert arrived, and it turned out to be my salvation. At some point during dinner, one of the servers had overheard us talking about cask beer. At the time, he had very casually mentioned that Bluejacket and Churchkey are part of the same restaurant group as them. So we had a brief conversation about beer. Drunk me went on a brief rant about how Churchkey is overcrowded and overpriced. That same waiter came back to give us the run-down: their fried apple pies with a cask Belgian quad, a full pour for all of us, all on the house and 100% independent of any birthday we happened to be celebrating (which the waiter didn’t know about until we all started scapegoating each other).
So hat’s off to you, Partisan! I don’t know that I’ve seen another restaurant go to this extreme level of service completely unprompted. It felt like everyone’s birthday (and, fortunately, no singing or clapping).
PS the apple pies were flaky and buttery like clouds from heaven.
Price: $50 per person.
Bottom line: After a long hiatus, I think we found a new go-to birthday place. This was one of the best dinners out in recent memory. Pricey, but worth it.