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Random bites: AVIA
AVIA delights

This downtown luxury hotel is the place to see and be seen. In fact, the once cozy little bar was recently tripled in size – and filled to capacity almost overnight. But one of the hotels most overlooked features is its inventive small plates menu. From sliders to pulled pork barbecue and chicken and waffles to carefully crafted salads, this is one small menu chock full of big flavors. Avia was hopping on the Saturday night that Ms. T.J. and our friends, Daisy and Natalie, stopped in for a bite. Despite a large wedding party and a full bar, service was quick and efficient. When one dish just didn’t suit the tastes of one guest, the server immediately took the plate and replaced it with another dish more to her liking. I had been curious about how this classy joint and its talented chef would handle an old–school Soul Food dish: chicken and waffles. In a word, perfectly. A light tempura batter made with Firefly vodka added nice crunch to a large, tender piece of boneless white meat chicken that was perched between two quarter wedges of hot, sweet waffle. Just the right amount of praline blueberry syrup was drizzled over the contemporary interpretation; a scattering of fresh, whole blueberries added color and interest. Despite its billing as a “small plate,” the portion was plenty for me. Ms. T.J.’s chicken lollipops were chicken drummies flash-fried and tossed in her choice of sauces. A bit of freshness came from a dipping sauce of blue cheese. On a previous visit, I had hamburger sliders. The pair of little burgers are prime beef and cooked to order. The patties are served on right–sized buns with garden fresh toppings. Some seating looks over an open–concept kitchen where many dishes are assembled or prepped. If you’re a little squeamish, choose other seating. On one visit, the sous chef was prepping whole beef tenderloins. That doesn’t bother me, but “may be too intense for some viewers.” This comfortable, full service bar is a great after–work or late–night watering hole – and has the added feature of a solid little menu of well–thought–out and beautifully prepared dishes.

14 Barnard Street /233–2116