Would I make a special trip to eat at Covina if I was visiting New York? Not really. However, if I lived in New York, I would probably visit often, especially if I lived in the neighbourhood. Covina is located at 127 East 27th Street in the Park South Hotel. It has around 70 seats and is connected to the lobby. It has a very casual vibe – a relaxed but nice atmosphere. Covina has a U-shaped bar, colourful banquette seating, and an open kitchen with a copper tiled pizza oven.
Everything coming out of the kitchen is rather good, some of it even quite creative. The menu is a playful mix of a Cal-Med dishes. It runs the gamut from asparagus cacio e pepe, to herb roasted chicken, wood-grilled lamb to handmade pasta and pizza. In fact, Boston-based Chef Tim Cushman has a passion for pizza and there is a section on his menu dedicated to this. We tried the fontina and brussel sprout pizza, topped with mascarpone, and fontina bechamel and pear topping. We added an egg for an additional $2. The pizza was really quite good. They make a fabulous crust and add some inventive toppings. Another signature dish here was the Hungarian fry bread. The bread seemed to be deep fried and then topped with a not too smokey salmon, kefir ranch and fresh herbs. I never had a dish like this before, and it was good. I noticed most tables were ordering it.
Soft shell crabs were a special the night we were there. I am a total sucker for soft shell crabs, so I had to have an order. To be honest, they were good, but not that memorable. What I did enjoy was the Covina burger. It was made with wagyu chuck flap and ground chuck, topped with American cheese, dashi pickles in a special sauce and the crispiest fries, just the way I like them. This was one darn good burger. In fact, it came in 6th in a city-wide contest for best burgers.
I had some friendly neighbours sitting to my left, who are regulars. They also said the hummus with warm sprouted chickpeas, with Provençal olive oil and cumin was a standout, as were the wood grilled gulf shrimp with polenta in a chile sauce and cilantro. But what really got my mouth watering was their Mandilli, a handmade loosely folded pasta sheet, with a basil almond pesto, with housemade ricotta in a San Marzano sugo tomato sauce. I noticed they sopped up every drop on their plates. They let me photograph it too!
Desserts also gave some comfort, like the buttermilk panna cotta with strawberry sorbet, graham cracker crumble. They also have a nightly selection of homemade ice cream and sorbets. The roasted peach sorbet and the blueberry ice cream were well done as well.
Tim and Nancy Cushman’s New American restaurant was unpretentious, relaxed, cozy and friendly – something you wish you had in your neighbourhood.