Monday, July 11, 2011


The meal began, appropriately, with a complimentary saucer of fat, mild radishes. Smeared with black olive paste and drizzled with a fruity olive oil, they needed only a dash of Maldon that sat graciously adjacent throughout the meal, and a fork. Simple, fresh, seasonal, delicious, and stealthfully healthy- and this is what The Fat Radish is all about.
Down in the dregs of the Lower East Side, this seasonal American charmer is solid enough to anchor what might become a new cluster of restaurant buzz; there's little else going on down there, and I'm sure rents are comparably reasonable given the gritty neighborhood. But inside, soft ivory painted bricks and shiny white tile transport you far from the stinky borders of Chinatown. Our table was ready before we were, my dining partner arriving slightly late due to the remote location. But the instant we sat, menus and water were provided and drink orders assessed, specials described, and off we went.

The bounty of the season, quite literally, was exquisitely captured in the Green Market plate: a cornucopia of late spring treats, which even included some last-chance fiddlehead ferns who's season is pretty much past. But they were perfect, soused in a salty, garlicky broth that allowed each individual vegetable sing its song but elevating it from a plain steam. The Spring Market salad was a huge tangle of purslane, cress, sunflower and salad
sprouts and baby arugula tossed with an intensely nutty sesame vinaigrette nestling a luxurious half avocado. Humble noshes like rillettes, pickles and cheese, and a tempting celery root pie with gruyere and black garlic cater to heartier appetites, and a daily special of handmade pasta tumbled aromatically with broccoli raab, haricots verts and tomato spiked with anchovy.

Although I've heard nothing of the bacon cheeseburger in the press, it was probably the most delicious looking burger I have ever seen, paired with potatoes cut so thick they deserved a fork and knife. The monkfish vindaloo won my attention, though. Morsels of monkfish, the most tender I have ever encountered, were smothered in an aromatic emerald green curry, only mildly spicy in the afterburn, but (with a spritz of that Maldon that remained throughout)
profoundly flavorful. A thoughtful crock of cucumber raita comes along to tame any fiery offense to more sensitive palates. It is served on a generous bed of what they dubbed wild rice, but seemed more a combination of brown and "forbidden", an earthy, chewy pilaf flecked with cashews that could've stood alone just as well, but complimented perfectly the saucy stew. Lacking vegetation, however, I ordered a side of braised fennel, which went so well it could easily have been added to the plate. The bulb came whole, braised in spiced stock to a melting tenderness. It's easily enough for two, maybe three... or just me (a fennel lover). A firm, meaty steak of striped bass slicked with miso was accompanied by buttery sweet squash and sauteed mustard greens, capped with a snazzy little julienne of trademark radishes for crunch and color.

We are very full at this point, we are, and given the extremely limited dessert menu (one panna cotta, a cookie plate or cheese), it would've been thinkable to skip out. Thankfully we did not make such a poor decision. The panna cotta takes its wobbly perch atop a tender round of sponge cake, which soaks up rhubarb-sauced strawberries incrementally as it sits, steeping itself in the tangy-sweet juices of marvelously market-fresh berries. It is a superlative finish to a meal with which I really could find no memorable flaw. And it is only in retrospect that I look back to recognize the healthfulness of the repast, something that never struck me while consuming each delicious mouthful. Food like this, so satisfying and soulful, but without gluttony, just might keep fat as an adjective for the radishes, and not to its diners.

No comments:

Post a Comment