Bites & Pieces

Fairfax

Even though it’s the same crew as the previous resident, this is no Perla 2.0. Longer review soon but suffice it to say – it’s pretty great and very chill. Half Woodstock living-room, partly regular restaurant, and a lot lounge-y.

This Bite is about the completely scrumptious soft boiled egg. They got this. An auspicious soft boiled egg with the meltingly best soldiers I’ve come across. Herb splashed butter with parmigiano on sourdough toast. Sublime. Sun filled windows, comfy chair. Almost like everything is just fine with the world.

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Fairfax
234 West 4th Street
NYC
212.933.1824

Open daily Sunday-Monday 8am-10pm, Tuesday-Thursday til 11pm, Friday-Saturday til midnight Breakfast til 11:30am and Weekend Brunch til 3pm

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‘A Tapestry Of Rich & Royal Hue…’

Tapestry  (with little notice…CLOSED)

Here’s the thing about Tapestry, it’s exactly that. A mosaic of flavors. It skews heavily towards Indian but don’t you call it Indian food. It’s a warp and weft of global cuisines – French, Mexican and even hints of Portuguese, threads twisting and pulling through old classics and fresh ideas. What do you have after all those strands are pulled together?  A smashing restaurant.

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Suvir Saran has had a long and revered career in food world. Devi, the restaurant that he shared with Hemant Mathur, was the first Michelin starred Indian restaurant in the United States and was divinely popular (as the name suggests) in its time, closing shortly after Saran left in 2012. He’s a chef, he’s written three cookbooks, he’s a teacher and of these last few years – a farmer. American Masala is his working farm in Hebron, NY named for his second cookbook and the fact that he has spent as much time living in the USA as he has in India. Masala Farm, his most recent work, chronicles how an urban chef kind of met his true calling, growing and raising his own food, which led to the natural progression of a restaurant that perfectly embodies the farm, the books, the philosophy. Here he reinvents the familiar with an unorthodox spin, mining every dish and idea for flavor, integrating Indian elements with American food, worldly American food.

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It’s so hard to characterize restaurants these days. They don’t sit patiently in a category waiting to be defined. Cuisines merge, marriages are made, definitions are deconstructed. Saran partnered with Roni Mazumdar of the lower east side’s Masala Wala to open Tapestry and brought on Joel Corona and Aarto Mehta as the chefs de cuisine. It’s win-win-win. Together they elevate tastes to create a new identity. The food is locally sourced, usually from Saran’s farm or his neighboring community and otherwise the prime offerings of locales elsewhere.

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Colorful, elegant Indian art adorns white brick walls setting off a white quartz bar, modern white seating and dark wood furnishings, flawlessly. The tiered rooms sparkle under  hanging amber globes of light, it’s stylish, pleasurable but not cherished.

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There’s an exemplary  cocktail program rather lovingly and very craftily designed by Jessy Peters. The Something Wicked with mezcal, habanero sangrita, pineapple and lime in a smoked salt-rimmed glass was a glass of beauty.

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I tasted my dining companion’s Smash the System with Peter’s own marinated espresso brandied cherries that are then combined with bourbon, brandy & orange. Definitely merits a return.

However on my next visit, I ordered the alluring and intriguing Sela, tequila with saffron, black pepper, lime, cayenne and of course – turmeric. So, it was healthy! Had two and was appreciative of the varied pansy selection.

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Divided into three family style sections, the menu offers shared grazing plates, vegetables and proteins and seems to evolve fairly often so not every dish will be there the next time you go. This is May’s version and had changed somewhat when I returned in July.

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Oh that goose that laid the golden egg…this deviled mixture of chicken and goose eggs, was offered back in May and tasted like…eggs. Egg 2.0. Real eggs. They were fantastic, stuffed with a curried mousse and decorated with a hint of gold leaf. Egg as art. These were special delivery from Saran’s farm, a spring egg fling and light years better than most of us are used to.

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Mango, Pineapple, Grapefruit Salad with honey-toasted sunflower seeds, lime and chile was refreshing and sassy on a warm spring evening.  It had bite, spice, a parmesan tuile and a funky elegance.

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Rick’s Cauliflower and Pappardelle covered in mouthfuls of luscious buttery crumbs, chile, garlic and sage. Spicy and oily. Rome meets Delhi.

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Hakka Spice Roasted Cauliflower in a very invigorating sweet and sour tomato jam was a favorite. I wouldn’t mind the pieces of cauliflower being just a little bigger so they play against the sauce instead of getting swallowed up in it. So to speak. But I still loved it and left nothing on my plate each time.

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Fritto Misto with calamari, shrimp, curry leaves accented with chile, black garlic and cilantro was spot on. Coated in rice flour and cornmeal, the batter was airy and light, greaseless, mega crispy on the outside, leaving you to savor the bits of crunch with the  delicate flavors of the seafood and fried lemon slices.

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Sticky, plush, tamarind glazed chicken wings with a basil mint yogurt sauce were meaty and rich. They rank right up there with the best of the Korean wings favored in this town.

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And last but very much not least, a hint of the old times from Devi, the house signature Masala Fried Chicken with peanut slaw, aloo bharta, (like a lemony Indian mashed potato) plus tomato chutney. It’s ultra crispy, a crust to sink your teeth into and comforting in that all American fashion but with a spicy Indian kick kind of way.

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Banana pudding trifle with layers of caramel and candied nuts was so inviting but just not my favorite. Maybe because I was expecting the thicker, creamier banana pudding I’m used to. This was interesting, more sophisticated but invariably too sweet.

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I didn’t want dessert the next time around, but it’s definitely worth sampling the efforts of pastry chef Crystal Hanks. The Sticky Toffee Pudding arrives in a caramel tulip with salted caramel ice cream and the straw that breaks the camel’s resolve, a smoked Maldon salt tuile. Blood was almost shed for the last bite.  It has the density of bread pudding, each component in harmony and with a bright, fresh flavor. As menu items change often, if there is a higher power with a shred of wisdom, this will always remain.

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A ceramic jewel box arrives with bite size desserts just before your check. A kind of 5 star dining homage and a lovely thank you for being at the table. These were each from my two visits.

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The best restroom door I’ve ever seen.

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Simple and stylish details are everywhere.

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Soon enough there will be a small private dining room downstairs, apparently with a tasting menu that will change daily. That seems to be the way of the future, with chefs exploring their talents and also catering to diners who want a little extra adventure, like Alex Stupak at Empellon Cocina with his 4 person chef’s table offered twice a night. I look forward to this one. And there’s a seated at the bar only menu. Many ways to experience the very sublime food here.

Again, it’s not an Indian restaurant. Clearly there are influences, hometown spices that mingle with counterparts from bordering countries and distant seas, flavors that are enhanced by an Indian ethos but also a farmer’s thinking, old world New York and new world Oaxaca. It’s a harmonic convergence of the food kind. ‘A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold.’ *

 

Tapestry

60 Greenwich Avenue at Perry Street

212.373.8900

Dinner Sunday – Wednesday 5:30-10pm and Thursday – Saturday 5:30-11:30pm

* Title and closing sentence from what else – Carole King’s Tapestry.

 

Soul Taming fromThe Wild Son

The Wild Son

Wild Son. Dun dun dun dun dun. You make my heart sing. Dun dun dun dun dun. You make everything…groovy. These are the early days of The Wild Son, just breakfast and lunch for the moment, dinner will be on deck by and by, along with some very cool cocktails. But these two meals will do for now and do quite nicely.

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Little in the way of restaurant world makes me happier than that rarity, a perfect neighborhood spot that’s gonna be a destination place as well. In case it’s not in my neighborhood. The pedigree here is strong. Owners aka the chef and the barkeep also own the fabulous and kinda under the radar Goodnight Sonny as well as The Wayland (with live music), two insanely worthy destinations in the east village. Now they’ve ventured west with a new idea. It’s wholesome food but edging the line of decadence. A philosophy of nutritionally dense debauchery.

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Though inventive cocktails have long been Jason Mendenhall’s bent, he’s using his wild imagination to concentrate on crafting a kind of revolutionary non-alcoholic drinks menu. An epic juice list, and a nitro cold brew coffee that he says leaves him up all night after tasting all afternoon. Note to self – when in need, get thee to The Wild Son.

My very refreshing carbonated watermelon fresca

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Followed by an Iced Coconut Latte that was deep.

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Crowd pleaser and all around fab dish, The Grain and Egg Bowl. I’d be hard pressed to not just return and order this again. Crispy fried grains with that crunch and pop lend more than just fiber to your bowl. It’s tiny bites of surprise, addictive and fun to eat. Add in the sunny side egg, greens warmed slightly from snuggling with their bowl mates, chopped seasonal vegetables and a spicy green sauce. You feel your strength coming back, your body making itself whole and it tastes heavenly.

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The Pernil Romero, slow cooked pork in garlic, fennel and rosemary with the crustiest of breads. And wrapped in paper. Like being in some Umbrian piazza by the porchetta truck.

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Divided into sandwiches, salads and plates, time of day matters not. Breakfast til 4pm or lunch at 10am. All good. Check out the Green Tartine description, they’re a humorous clan.

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Whimsy defines the interior. A beach cottage with a wry urban wit.

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So far what I’ve tasted has been beautifully spiced, the right balance for flavor and intrigue and clearly primo ingredients.

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It’s not a scene, but it will have its own cult I’m sure. They’re not trying to be cool casual, they’re just relaxed, curious, imaginative and having fun. And it’s catching.

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Plants, books, albums, art…and they do play really good music.

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Robert Ceraso and Jason Mendenhall. There’s a third partner that I never said hello to but will add his name later. I’m sure he’s wonderful too. Kindest people. Keenly interested in the diner’s happiness.

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I was there on day 2 and look forward to returning asap for their already infamous doughnuts. Baked not fried! Plus I want the buckwheat pancakes (gluten free fwiw), the new morning sandwich (sooo much), and the Mango & Turmeric Sparkling Shrub. Then I’ll work my way down the wish list.

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It’s everything you need to start your morning or end your afternoon.

Wild Son, I think I love you.

 

The Wild Son

53 Little West 12th Street between Tenth Avenue/West Street

212.727.7900

Open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm for now

A Mound of Tofu, A Jug of Sake and Thou…

Three Favorite Tofu Dishes

I’m not covering the ouevre here but just tossing out that which should not be missed. If you like tofu. And maybe even if you generally don’t.

Hakubai
Buried deep within the caverns of the Kitano Hotel in Murray Hill is a lovely Kaiseki restaurant – Japanese food as art. Down, down a flight of stairs to a chic, spare tho too brightly lighted dining room complete with kimono clad servers. They offer many wonderful dishes but for now – let’s have that sesame laced tofu. The kind of creamy dreamy ethereal texture that you don’t easily forget. It’s a more traditional version but exquisitely made and offered in a small beautiful bowl. It used to be a soft square of charcoal and ivory, now it’s all one color. Never knew how they did that. It’s often paired with an interesting vegetable of the season as a garnish and I still remember my brilliant first bite six years ago.

Momokawa
Slightly east and a tidge south we go up a spiral stairway this time, to a slice of Kyoto at the top. There are only about 20 seats to be had and much good sake for the many delicacies on the menu. And yes, among them is a sesame tofu. A perfectly round package of tofu gathered in a nub, a kind of dumpling with a nipple topped with uni, wasabi and set in a nice dashi. This is more akin to biting into sesame with the texture of tofu, a buttery, luscious cozy tofu that becomes the vehicle for real sesame, no delicate infusion here. It’s a lovely smooth delight.

En
Well one cannot ignore the temple of homemade tofu in this mini round-up. Not tofu that is handmade every one and a half hours and can be had warm or cold. Both ways are silken, velvety, and lush but the lacquer box behind door number one wins my vote – warm. A soft white milky box of love, heavenly love. A barely detectable shape in the thick liquid, but oh it’s there. Add a little soy dashi, dip your shallow wooden spoon in a cloud and with one small moan of happiness, you’ve been called home. They have a simple but special process in the tofu making here and luckily for us it allows the true flavor to shine through. I thank them for their scientific prowess but I just want to revel in the outcome.

Hakubai
Kitano Hotel
66 Park Avenue
212.885.7000

Momokawa
157 East 28th Street
212.684.7830

En Brasserie
435 Hudson Street
212.647.9196