Commerce is located at the end of a hidden nook similar to a culdesac in the West Village in an old historic building which was once the restaurant Grange Hall. It feels like a safe haven from the rest of New York City as the inside has a bright yellow glow, old wooden booths that can barely fit 4 comfortably and an astonishing art deco mural by David Joel in the back center of the restaurant that draws your eyes constantly (almost as much as the mile-high cake slices walking around). The scene is calm, relaxing and an older crowd who splurges on a porterhouse for two for $48 per person. There isn’t much turnover as each seating is on the longer side- the chicken for two takes 45 minutes to prepare- but the bar has a constant flow and crowd. Your journey takes off once seated as the service is respectful, careful and attentive. Chef/Owner Harold Moore keeps to himself in the back watching to make sure each plate is executed correctly. To preface this review, I have memories from Commerce about four years ago when my aunts swept me off my feet at this nice restaurant and gave my palate a taste of things I had never experienced before. I came back this time for one thing which was the memorable Whole Roasted Chicken for Two that has remained in my head since the first time.
The bread basket is one thing I have never forgotten from my first encounter at Commerce. Full of surprises from pretzel rolls, to white bread stuffed with kale and bacon, poppyseed rolls and my favorite which is a doughy rectangular roll stuffed with sweet onions. This is one bread basket that you should allow yourself to fill up on. Don’t just stop at one basket either because the next has other rolls that might not have made it into your basket the first time. The Chicken is the only thing I really needed (until I saw the chocolate birthday cake) and it came out in a beautiful brass pan for show before chef cut it up and divided on two plates.
However, the Spaghetti Carbonara with Black Pepper & Coddled Egg Yolk is rich and smoky. Make sure to stir in the egg which adds to the nice, light sauce. Something so simple yet it works. My absolute favorite dish of the night was the Red Snapper with Eggplant and Charred Scallions in a Thai Inspired Herb Broth. If I was a judge on Top Chef this could be a career winning dish. It was perfectly cooked, flaky and the broth added a refreshing light flavor that you don’t taste with seafood everywhere. It reminded me of summer. This is the thing to get 100%. Now the dessert menu is just plain unfair. Every dessert you could ever dream of is staring back at you from the paper. Chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, Old Fashioned Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafters and even a special of the day which was Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter icing. If you have a cake named “The Best Coconut Cake” on a menu then it just seems silly not to order it, even if it’s not your favorite dessert. The fact that the Birthday Cake with yellow cake and chocolate icing came with colored sprinkles made that choice easy. While I am a chocolate fan, the coconut cake actually outdid the birthday cake. It’s layered high with icing in between and one slice is plenty.
Commerce is a place to take parents, family, grandparents and those visiting from out of town that want to enjoy a fantastic New York restaurant. It’s pretty easy to get a reservation the week of and I wouldn’t recommend walking in unless you just want a cocktail.