Although just directly across the street, The Leadbelly is a worlds away from its sister restaurant, The Fat Radish. More cocktail driven, with an exclusive yet approachable vibe, its a speakeasy worth traveling back in time for. Sporadic artifacts of the era, with some more randomly chosen then others, inhabit the brick exposed walls. The piano might seem more fit at first glance, but the adjacent luggage rack immediately instills a feeling to stay and play a while. And there are boardgames for that shall the an urge cultivate.
The strategic placement of The Leadbelly allows for overflow in either direction, all depending on which way the traffic is moving on that particular evening. Cocktails and oysters can be a great way to start an evening, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with dining at The Fat Radish and crossing the street to have a few perfectly shucked bivalves for dessert.
Speaking of oysters, The Leadbelly knows how to pick em, shuck em, and serve them just the way we like em. We barely had to wait before our perfect dozen arrived at our table, with each member plump and beautiful. The changing daily selection consists of both East and West Coasts varieties. We tried them all. The Montuak Pearls from LI tasted straight from the water fresh, and the Ceder Islands from Mantauk RI, were a slightly sweeter delight. The West Coasters brought it home with the melony Kusshi, and our favorite the creamy and metallicy Skookums.
The rest of the menu, also changing daily based on what is seasonly available and at its prime, consists of small plates with big flavor. The four we tried on our visit were substantial in size and creativity. The Warm Dukkah went far beyond a bowl of peanuts, to accompany the creative libations. The Snapper Tartare was divine and refreshing. The Beetroot Tartan was light as feather even with the robustness of the ash goat cheese on top. And the Raw Chopped Salad, which appeared simple at first, had quite the kick, catching us pleasantly off guard.
The Leadbelly plays on soul and rhythm, as it delivers the free spirited vibe of an era so far away, but yet just around the corner.
The Leadbelly, 14 Orchard St., nr. Canal St.
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