Silk Rd Tavern
Marco Polo has a respite for his Great Silk Road adventures should he add time travel to his resume. West 22nd Street may be less exotic than the trade route for glory and riches but it now has a tavern that pays homage of sorts to Marco Polo’s book about the variety of the world. Silk Rd Tavern is a modern take on Asian food as influenced by good ol’ traditional comfort American style.
In this recent advent of the chic neighborhood Asian eatery popping up all over Manhattan, Silk Rd Tavern possesses a casual sexiness if not the most interesting decor. It replaces the ex Allegretti space and they added brick walls (why?) lovely walnut tables, suave globe lights but the ultra hard surfaces do nothing to soften the sound. Apparently they have a plan to change that and none too soon. The bar area seats 30 people at mostly communal high tables while the dining room has about 40 places and will offer a chef’s tasting booth eventually. The wood burning oven that Allegretti never put to use will soon go into effect here for whole roasted fish, Asian flatbreads and the like.
The menu is small and on inspection, way more tantalizing than I had realized. The collision of 1960’s Ohio meeting 2012 Shanghai is definitely intriguing.
And that’s the funny thing about this place – I didn’t find it especially pretty, it was a bit loud and echo-y, the menu seemed fine but not revelatory and I immediately started forming my so-so opinion. Then I ate. Each dish was much more surprising and inventive and seriously better than I’d expected.
Mushroom Gyoza in a spiced soy emulsion with bits of oyster was wonderful. Meaty and layered.
Salted Fish Roe Noodles with pea shoots, scallions and cilantro was so utterly simple, it almost seemed like they forgot to sauce it. But it’s subtle brine snuck up on me and the noodles were cooked perfectly, at dente at its Asian finest.
A Summer Vegetable Salad in a mint citrus vinagrette combined crispy versions of the usual suspects but with the added flair of surprises like fiddlehead ferns.
Big Eye Tuna Tartar was what you might expect, refreshing, perfectly fine but had they added more of the uni vinaigarette, I might be sitting there right now.
Skate & Lotus Chips with a ginger tartar sauce and scallions – sweet, briny, salty, fabulous.
The Hainese Chicken with chicken fat grits and sambal cucumbers are worth a foray into the new world on their own. The kind of dish that makes you know you’ll be back.
Dessert. European Style. Bridging the worlds of the Silk Road traveler. Asian bomboloni and a lemony tart made for a grand finish. But I’m not finished. A return beckons. I saw that Singapore Chili Crab Pot Pie pass by more than a few times. And the Charmoula Spiced Paiche with eggplant fries will also be on my table. The BBQ Braised Short Ribs with kimchee brussel sprouts, and a sunny side up egg is another worthy reason for a revisit.
There’s a bar snack menu too. Offerings stand out on their own and include a duck complete with foie gras stuffed into an egg roll, a menu crossover item – Tavern Mac & Cheese made from korean rice cakes and vermont cheddar not to mention the cocktails. The Spicy Thai Margarita with tamarind and chilies, the Cucumber Collins with Hendricks Gin and the Silk Root Lemonade are standouts.
It’s a good date spot, a comfortable neighborhood hang – so long as they baffle the sound and a relaxed destination spot. I look forward to seeing what they do down the (silk) road.
Silk Rd Tavern
46 West 22nd Street between fifth/sixth av