Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Shredded Tofu Go Salad
Grass-fed Steak and Not Rice
If you're jonesing for the oil-slicked, steam-table gut-bombs of cheap Indian food, best head east to Curry Hill.  Inday, a Flatiron newcomer, celebrates instead the vibrant, salubrious elements of Indian cuisine, so far succeeding wildly to establish itself as a front-runner in the neighborhood's competitive lunch circles. It does so with a flight of well-seasoned bowls, constructed in a Chipotle-esque fashion, customizing proteins and bases.  Pair warm, fluffy cauliflower "Not Rice" with red spice-marinated grass-fed steak ($12), whose chunks have a fair amount of marbling.  But being grass-fed, the fat is sweet and unctuous instead of gristly and off-putting.  If that still doesn't appeal to you, you can keep in the Mahatma's good graces with a vegan hash of delightfully shredded smoked tofu ($12) over "Go Salad", a gingery slaw garnished with sesame-flecked carrots and beets. 
Grilled Chicken and The Roots
The grilled chicken, on the other hand,  is really dry...  a tragedy, really, given that they're using good quality, free-range birds.  Better off with the turkey, which is stewed in a onion confit to retain some juiciness.  For extra flavor, dab on some of the house-made sauce and amp up the Scovilles.  The zesty red is milder though still peppery; the green yogurt's pale color belies its fiery oomph.  Don't let that stop you- it's addictively good.  There's also a soothing yogurt raita to calm your palate if things get too frisky- because even invigorating juice drinks are spiked with cayenne.  There's a Arnold Karma that riffs on the Palmer with ginger, tumeric and cayenne, and a red lemonade with more of the same.

Aside from bowls, dinnertime avails Dosa Waffles not offered at lunchtime. A chewy, toasty crackerbread is a combination of sugar and waffle cones but nary a hint of sweetness.  Top it with Russ & Daughters' supple Norwegian smoked salmon and a thick lemony yogurt "shmear", or go heartier with hand-pulled bbq steak bolstered with tomato chutney.   They are said to be pushing more into dinner territory, their website flaunting Moong Dal flatbreads that appear to incorporate an entire meal.  But for the time, everything is served in compostible paper bowls with disposable plastic utensils, so it doesn't really feel like a dinner destination.  Plus, there's no liquor license (another aspect they are working on).  They are, however, expanding with other locations, and hoping to get the infrastructure down for a more dinner-friendly experience, so keep an eye out.

(Don't laugh.  It's pudding.)
Desserts tend virtuous, as well, in keeping with the rest of the menu.  A chocolate-avocado pudding would probably appeal more to the raw/vegan set than those who can experience the real thing.  To me, it still tasted really healthy.  There's also a little cup of  cardamom yogurt dressed with berry compote, but if that seems to breakfasty, opt for cozy cacao-chai tea, which comes with two little cocoa-date-coconut truffles, although these again fall into the health-food-tasting category to me. But they're tasty enough, and this is all in good keeping with
 Inday's philosophy:  "Good Karma Served Daily", which is literally written on the wall.  I mean, with the added bonus of circulating good energy into the universe and a potentially favorable afterlife, Inday is pretty much a win-win.

1133 Broadway
(at 26th St)

Friday, February 5, 2016


An eddy is an aqueous vortex of activity:
 in fly fishing terms, it's the sweet spot to hook a catch.  With this in mind, The Eddy in the East Village couldn't be more aptly named.   That a tiny, humble little nook of a restaurant can create food this sophisticated, imaginative and compelling is nothing short of astounding. Chef Brendan McHale's
 food brandishes dazzle that its modest surroundings might belie.  Fancy enough to offer a tasting menu, but cozy enough that servers seem like friends.  Granted, the prices are steep for this neck of the woods, but the culinary eddies of

excitement created in this kitchen prove the price points are more than merited.

King Rodney
Strange Visitors
 If you're not one to pair cocktails with dinner, certainly come for drinks on a separate occasion.  Whimsically named and concocted, they're worth a trip in and of themselves, although at around fifteen dollars each, these a special-occasion tipples.  Try the refreshingly extra-terrestrial looking mezcal-based Strange Visitors, or the sweetly bold King Rodney.

The menu is divided into untitled strata, starting off pricey and waxing even more so.  But beef tendons are puffed magically into crisp clouds, anchored by a dollop of dill-inflected creme and smoked trout roe that burst with subtle salinity, are like nothing you've ever tasted. 
Chewy sunflower-rye toasts affix cool, plush pillows of uni, delicately oceanic, with ricotta whipped to ethereal lightness and brightened with a shoyu mignonette.   Butter poached Barnstable oysters go down, well… like butter, a garlic-smacked savory granola spritzed atop adds a nutty crunch.

  And these are just snacks.  They may be the menu's fireworks, but the next tier (probably considered appetizers) sports a hamachi and mushroom escabeche which is no less delightful.  Firm yet delicate slips of rosy fish wallow in a tangy, zesty cure that balances brightness and intensity no less miraculously than Philippe Petit.  Crispy sunchokes, more
 sturdy than crunchy, form a substantial salad, earthy and dense with sweet slices of crisp pear in a luxurious bed of gently peppery robiola. 

As plates grow larger, some of the creativity might wane, but the quality in no less profound.  A  crisp-edged filet of cod flakes luxuriously into an earthy puree of sunchoke, with toothsome cubes of  Japanese turnips and a luscious bonito butter provide a wink from the east.  A magnificent grass-fed ribeye heralds unrivaled beefiness, coated in a alluring salt rub, and sided simply with crushed fingerlings and a charred bulb of romaine squiggled with a creamy
 dressing.  A side of charred cauliflower, unmissable in its own right, also serves as a wonderful side dish for the meat.  Or on its own.  Or for breakfast.   (I digress.)  It's charred sinfully black, anointed with a verdant gremolata piqued with pimenton.  Try this dish to turn a cauliflower-phobe into an afficionado. 

Though the cardamom panna cotta is so popular they can't seem to remove it from the menu, a ginger cookie compilation with citrus and coconut sorbet didn't live up to the rest of the meal.  It was weirdly plated in that aphelion style, all off to one side and for no good reason.  Better off to go for a Bedrock Fizz from the cocktail list, a fruity gin-based tipple, sweet with brandy and cream… and topped with real Fruity Pebbles.  Because The Eddy isn't above that kind of playfulness: and they can back it up.  

342 East 6th Street


Fresh off a two star review from the New York Times, La Chine should capitalize on the momentum.  I feel those two stars were more encouraging than enthusiastic, especially after visiting: the restaurant has a lot of things going for it, but it also charges a lot of money for the experience.  And I'm not talking about a lot of money "for Chinese food".  I mean it is a very pricey place, with entrees in the thirty to forty dollar range.  Granted they are served family-style and are quite generous, but most people seem to order (as we did) in a more Western fashion, in keeping with the stylistic modernity of the restaurant.  There's really no reason for it to be family-style, and the elegance of the space would benefit from serving it with fancy Western aplomb.  Moreover, they might be able to soften the price points.

But I get ahead of myself.  We are here, in this calm, warmly lit room.  It will not entirely transport you from the fact that you are in a hotel, but firstly it's a grand hotel, and secondly, the room is attractive.  An immense satellite-shaped chandelier centers the room which is otherwise simply adorned.  Our server was young, but agile, attentive and informative.  Perhaps he was more cautionary than need be in certain aspects: he seemed very concerned that we might order something that overshot our spiciness quotient, but there was but one dish that we tried that night that really packed much punch at all.  Yellowtail
 sashimi (for lack of a better word), was endorsed by our server over the other of their Raw Bar options.  The rosy slips fanned out like a flat pink dahlia in a pool of ruddy Szechuan pepper oil, tiny rings of vermilion chili harbingers of heat.  The fish was sturdy enough to hold up to
 the assertive sauce, which would've overwhelmed a more delicate variety. The soups are the one thing not facilely shareable.  One bowl, one spoon, and while there's enough to divide with another mouth, it lacks the necessary utensils- unless you're okay sharing that, too.  We chose the Chicken Cloud Consomme, mostly for its morels, which were few and far between.  Its eggy "cloud" was more a dense cumulonimbus than wispy cirrus, but the clear, golden broth itself is deep and satisfying, enriched with aged yellow wine and profoundly chickeny stock.

Crispy Spanish mackerel was a showstopper, arriving with the pomp of a glass cloche which releases a plume of woodsy smoke encasing the meaty hunks of fish.  Surprisingly, the aggressive frying of the fish did not compound its fishiness, but it exhibited almost a jerky-like texture.   Its flavor was gently oceanic, kissed with smoke and
 soy.  The most winsome component, however, was the exemplary pickled Napa cabbage.  Absolutely delectable kimchee-esque slabs of slippery cabbage, slicked with tahini for an unexpected nuttiness.  The earthy brightness made this accoutrement exceptional on its own, and elevated the dish to memorable success.

The entrees we chose were less superlative, though that might've been avoided had I paid more attention to Well's review: he specifically panned the two entrees we selected. Such an evitable error = menu regret.  Our versions, however, were at least impeccably fresh, although the overall impression was both lackluster and only marginally Chinese-tasting.  The most interesting component of the black cod was the Chinese wild fern snuggled under the pillowy fresh fish.  It is an intriguing vegetable, similar in texture and appearance to spinach but with a subtle celery or lovage flavor.  Our hyper-spice conscious waiter swapped out its scallion-ginger-soy sauce as specified on the menu for a purportedly zippier preparation, which turned out to be a savory chutney-type paste...
flavorful  enough, but was strangely bereft of any of the spicy zip is was supposed to be providing.  Likewise, the X.O. sauce that pooled beneath the five hulking scallops in their elongated canoe of a dish looked dark and mysterious, but tasted like a generic brown sauce with a hint of tang- again, no chili-pepper spiciness despite our waiter's precautions.  Plus, it was too thin to really cling to the scallops, and humongous as they were, the flavor had zero chance of penetrating their heft.  They actually performed better the next day (such a big portion was unfinishable solo), as they had a chance to marinate overnight in their seasonings as leftovers.  Plus, the pea pods benefited from a little extra cooking as well.  The cod, on the other hand, was an easily manageable portion for a single diner, so portion size isn't always consistent, either.

The wok-fired cauliflower is cumin-heavy (which I liked, but my tablemate found excessive), flanked with thicks slabs of fatty pork belly (which my tablemate liked, but I found excessive).  The florets might be a touch greasy, but the dish is highly grubbable.  That adjective isn't what I imagine for a $16 side dish, but still, tasty is tasty.  Purer are the pea shoots, soy-slicked and glistening green, although notably un-seasonal in the thick of January, and likewise waxing spendy.  That said, to their credit, they capitalize on the super-local honey that the Waldorf-Astoria cultivates
 right there on their very own rooftop, care of New York's finest beekeeper, Andrew Cote of Andrew's Honey.  Glazing that aforementioned pork, and a very springy
 sea bass dotted with asparagus tips and enoki mushrooms, I wish it could've trickled down into the dessert options, although the pink pearl vacherin was a highlight of the evening even without it.  Gorgeously presented, it recalled Paul Liebrandt's masterpiece from Corton (of yore).  Two spiraling meringues sandwich a tangy passionfruit mousse aside a smooth lychee sorbet.... squiggled underneath was a strange pool-noodle of unidentifiable gelatin, the tasted more of plate than anything else.  The luminous pink pearl that hallmarks the dish is certainly eye-catching, but quasi-inedible, a waxy sphere of wan white chocolate whose only redeeming quality is it loveliness.  It's a pity that too many of the dishes sort of share that assessment. I agree wholeheartedly that New York could use some fancy-shmancy Asian cuisine that is precisely what La Chine is aspiring to- I just don't think it quite gets there.


At the waldorf astoria
540 lexington avenue lachine@waldorfnewyork.com