Sunday, August 21, 2011


The best things about Double Crown are the cocktails and the bathrooms.  Which is appropriate, given that the former inevitably leads to the latter.  At any rate, I severely need to get back on track with my restaurant-sleuthing philosophy, because following the trendy buzz  is leading me too oft astray.  As was the case at Double Crown.

Here we see AvroKo's trademark decor:  rustic elegance and a vintage/modern melange.  Double Crown's food is basically an Asian- tweaked gastropub, so we have American modernism paired with slow-rotating fans suspended from high wood-worked ceilings, balmy, palmy, frondy plants conjuring up the tropics, some Japanese lithography and random red neon tubing hinting at some far off redlight district of the Orient.  Standard utensils flank place settings along with cylinders of paper-wrapped chopsticks: eat with whichever you choose.  The heirloom tomato salad, though, was unwieldy with either option, since spoons (the ideal amenity) weren't included in the repertoire.  Chopsticks disallowed getting a crouton to retain it's gelatinous basil seed topping (appearing strangely amoebic)  along with a tomato chunk at the same time.  A fork sieved out all the thin, miso-infused whipped tofu which refused to adhere so much to the salad components as to the plate.  Regardless, the tomato didn't boast the flavor typical of heirlooms, especially now in peak season: it was noticeably watery and even a bit sour.  The hot and sour broth of the prawn dumplings enjoyed a spicy punch from some shreds of vibrant red chili and the tang of lemongrass buoying chubby, seafood stuffed dumpling that were palatable enough.  Forever Crispy Chicken wings deserve credit for
crispiness (of course, we didn't wait long enough to accurately test the Forever aspect) and a sweetly spicy, sticky chili sauce, laid on thick.  Meaty enough specimens, I suppose, but messy, and I can't help but think that chunks of poultry would've served the same purpose without the fuss of the bone and an errant nugget of gristle.  The celery and carrot sticks accompanying had a rubbery pliancy that was nothing but disturbing.

The entrees are divided up into fish & vegetarian vs. meat, but there was skate on offer and thus no question for me about which to choose from.  The fish itself was furled thickly and browned crispy and golden on one side only, which preserved the unique texture of the fish ideally and kind of showcased its assets. Luckily, too, its somewhat vertical formation elevated it from
excessive pollution by the offensive, acrid broth that was lurking below.  I'm not sure what vegetable it was that nested the fish, because while it looked like mature pea shoots, it had a mildly tongue-numbing quality and a harsh, abrasive bitterness.  The yuzu broth was rife with Thai herbs that seemed to be haphazardly added with little regard to their assertive flavors.  Whole peppercorns, pungent cilantro and myriad other foreign herbal combatants fought aggressively in their the sharp, acidic brine.

Miso-chili glazed asparagus was the tastiest dish of the night, but even so, amounted to little more than anything found at some generic Thai joint on any given block of 8th avenue in Chelsea, where for the same price, you would've gotten you a choice of white or brown rice, a salad or spring roll and some grilled shrimp or chicken thrown in with the spears.

In dessert we found some respite, although we cautiously opted for a very safe sounding lemon yuzu meringue tart.  Luckily, the only offending factors of this sweet were the sprigs of cilantro that found themselves garnishing every possible nook with absolutely no sane justification and polluting any bite which they stealthfully infiltrated.

Throughout this meal, I was musing to myself how the Times could've possibly given this place two stars (even Sifton would see eye-to-eye with me on this one).  Until now, as I unearthed the archived review to see its publication date:  late November back in '08.  Clearly, the crown is not only losing a bit of its luster.... the jewels that may have once adorned it have blatantly fallen from their tines.

316 Bowery Street @ Bleecker

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