To be won over by a small ball of rice might sound preposterous. And yet, all it takes is one blissful bite-size arancini and you will wish Bar Pleiades was your own neighborhood go-to for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. For that to be the case, you’ll either have to move to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, or, for a temporary fix, check into the Surrey where Daniel Boulud’s answer to the hotel bar is located. His Café Boulud conveniently lies across the lobby, so one can go from drinks to dinner and back again. The arancini isn’t just any fried sphere of risotto and cheese: This one is marked by flakes of black truffle. You’ll find it among a selection of assorted canapés, which also includes ethereal gougères and, on a recent visit, slivers of lightly cured hamachi wrapped around avocado and daikon.
Certainly, these upscale snacks, the brainchildren of wunderkind Gavin Kaysen, are excellent, but its complex, cleverly crafted mixed potables also make a big impression. Created by Cameron Bogue, they are organized in typical Boulud fashion according to theme: Traditional, Seasonal, Vegetable Garden, and Travel. Recent standouts include the peoples’ choice, the Maizy Daisy, made with purple-corn-infused tequila, syrup of chicha (a Peruvian corn-based juice) and Curaçao liqueur, and the bartenders’ pick, the Gourd-geous sling, which features butternut squash puree and maple syrup, and, yet, bears only a subtle trace of sweetness.
The interior is appropriately dark, elegant, modern, and intimate?a perfect fit with its immediate surroundings in the newly renovated boutique hotel. Snag a stool, or, better still, a booth in the front room, and raise a glass to a well-made drink and the perfect boîte in which to sip it. (212.772.2600, www.thesurrey.com)