The Easter Bunny is arguably the most awful of all holiday creatures. He's big, freakishly silent, and (purportedly) lays eggs that are maddeningly disproportionate to his body. And he promotes type 2 diabetes in kids. Doesn't he have anything better to do? This year, to control my frustration, I went out and ate a bunch of rabbit. Thus, my quest to find out who serves the tastiest bunny in town.
I Sodi: I started my journey at this little restaurant on Christopher Street. There wasn't a soul under 40 when I arrived, and it smelled like church. Come to think of it, the beautiful blue granite, airy architecture and general hush all made it feel like church. The vibe is elegant but not pretentious -- a great "let's meet for wine and then make out" spot. And the staff is impeccably dressed and more attentive than an altar boy. (Too far?)
The Rabbit: The coniglio frita (fried bunny) is a study in minimalism: simple hunks of fried rabbit served on a simple bed of fries, fried with whole garlic cloves and sage leaves. If you like fried chicken but you want to look fancy, you should order this; it's breaded and fried, so you can't really taste the subtleties of the the rabbit meat. It just tastes like really good (slightly dry) fried chicken. But the fries! The fries! They're like the super-hot friend you made the mistake of inviting to the club. They totally steal the rabbit's thunder -- crisp on the outside, sinfully mushy on the inside, and the fried garlic cloves and sage are the master-strokes of a skilled minimalist.
105 Christopher St.; 212-414-5774
Maialino at Gramercy Park: Right on the edge of Gramercy Park, the atmosphere of Maialino makes me think of a girl from Minnesota I saw once, clomping down Park Avenue in heels that were too high for her, smiling at strangers. But hey, she looked like a really nice girl. So, yes, the interior of Maialino feels like a Starbucks dressed up like a fancy Italian restaurant, but the food is solid, the vibe is inviting, and because it's a Danny Meyer's joint, the staff is nice. Scary-nice.
The Rabbit: I've been laying extravagant, pastel eggs ever since I ate this dish. The rabbit comes out in moist, buttery-rich shreds, on top of a delicate hand-rolled garganelli pasta. Then there's the naughty sauce: browned butter with white wine, seasoned with bright rosemary and parsley, and a little lemon zing at the end. It's like a perfectly tied game of tug-of-war between the tubby kids and the lean, muscly kids. And the mild green olives are the referee. So goooood.
2 Lexington Ave.; 212-777-2410
Marlow and Sons: I ended my quest in the rugged, majestic neighborhood of South Williamsburg. Everyone at Marlow and Sons is oddly attractive and attractively odd to the point that I'm convinced it's run by Hipster-Aliens. And what better mothership for the Hipster-Alien race than a dim cave with low, wood ceilings, botanical drawings hanging by the bar, and the night's local, seasonal menu whispered in chalk on the wall behind you? And if you're nice to them they might probe you!
The Rabbit: When I took my first bite, I almost lost my Marshmallow Peeps (in the good way). It's a single braised rabbit leg on top of a rich, pesto-y farro, with green olives, carrots and a bramble of dijon-dressed mustard greens. The rabbit meat has the texture of dark chicken meat, but is so moist and rich that it's really more akin to a goose pâté. The punchy green olives and mustard greens perfectly contrast with the richness of the rabbit, while the carrots do their subtle, sweet thang. And the farro holds it all in place like the big bodyguard baby in "Toy Story 3."
81 Broadway, Brooklyn; 718-384-1441
And the winner is ... Marlow and Son's! It took me back to when I was 13, thirty pounds overweight, and thought Cadbury Creme Eggs were the real reason for Easter. This dish is like my grown-up Cadbury Creme Egg. It almost defies words -- filling, but not heavy; delicate, but not prissy; and the rabbit meat (usually a fickle, dry meat) couldn't be cooked more perfectly. Just be quick 'cause their menu changes more often than a rabbit does the dirty deed.