Without Calling Itself a Wine Bar, Cervo’s Acts Like One

Without calling itself a wine bar, Cervo’s does a good impersonation of one, pouring about 12 unfortified wines by the glass along with another dozen or so sherries, Madeiras and ports.

On my previous visits I’d ranged all over the list. I’d enjoyed a sparkling wine bottled, with spirited acidity, by Sidónio de Sousa in the Bairrada region of Portugal, by the Atlantic Ocean; a quietly flowery vermouth from the Basque Country, poured from a tap; Los Bermejos’s illuminatingly bright dry malvasia, grown in the volcanic soil of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands; a glass of red from 4 Monos, made in the mountains west of Madrid and so approachably low in tannin that Cervo’s serves it chilled, like a Beaujolais.

According to the owners, Nialls Fallon and Nick Perkins, the menu is inspired by Portugal and Spain, like the wine list. For years, they say, they talked about opening “a Portuguese version” of Swan Oyster Depot, the San Francisco institution. (They have another place in Brooklyn called Hart’s, taken from Mr. Perkins’s middle name. Hart is also an antique word for deer, which is what cervo means in Portuguese.)

The menu reads like a wine bar’s, too. Portions are generally small and the plates are unstudied, starting with some basics like fleshy green olives in olive oil and paprika, or pan con tomate with ripe tomatoes and shavings of bottarga.

But while the wine list sails off into uncharted territory, the menu sticks closer to home. Few of the dishes would be familiar in Lisbon, but several would be right at home in Estela or Wildair.

The main ideas that Mr. Perkins and Aaron Crowder, who share the chef duties, seem to have drawn from the cuisine of Portugal is that people there eat a lot of seafood and tend to keep things simple. This isn’t a bad place to start, though.

Their next move is a smart one, too. Mr. Perkins and Mr. Crowder cooked in many of Andrew Tarlow’s restaurants, smallish Brooklyn places with locavore inclinations. At Cervo’s, they work with very fresh seafood caught off the Northeastern coast, supplemented by a few things from farther away. It doesn’t take much to make these ingredients stand out.

The selection of oysters is not overwhelming, but each time I’ve turned up there were new ones to swallow, Truro Pearls and Wellfleets from Cape Cod in August and, in September, Pink Moons and Savage Blondes from Prince Edward Island.

From the raw bar also come…

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