Monday, August 15, 2016


I was a late-comer to Dimes, a kitschy little eatery that was all the rage when it over on the remote cusp of Chinatown and the Lower East Side- where streets have names of Presidents and the topography is utterly foreign.  It's just a matter of time, though, 'til this obscure zip code becomes a coveted one, with the continuing, incessant, insidious developmental sprawl.  On an average night, lines outside Dimes still warrant substantial wait times, and I'm not one to play that game.  So we went early, and were lucky with a combination of un-prime-time dining and prime, weekend beach-weather where the hoards were probably still flocking the shore instead of occupying the table I would've been waiting for them to vacate.

Bright and elemental describes both the food and the decor.  The stark, white-washed room is broken up with blocky primary colors, vibrant cobalt and classic fire-engine red, and the menu is a short-list of hot-item healthfoods and trendy ingredients: we've got kale and quinoa, wheatgrass and avocado, but Dimes is in no way puritanical.   There's still pulled pork and indulgent cheeses, so you can take things either way.  On the healthier side, we started off with The Big Salad (Elaine Benes would've been proud), a big bowl of fresh leaflets mounded with roasted shishitos and kernels of corn in a kicky charred lime vinaigrette.  Not quite hearty enough for any entree, it was still to big for an individual appetizer but ideal to share between the two of us.  There are also Small Plates, from which a sourdough Maitake Toast  or Grilled Halloumi with Romesco probably
would be a much better choice than the Magical Vegetable Pot, but I was lured by the possibility of some bewitching prestidigitation. 
The only glimmer of a crystal ball in this tiny cup of produce, however, was the glass crock in which it was served.  Basically just a visually striking strata of beautifully

jewel-toned vegetables, they were much more interesting to conceive than to consume.  Raw, shredded cabbage and fennel layered with ribbons of zucchini and mango were pretty but plain, and frankly didn't even compliment one another very well.

Roasted Cod
Mains were significantly more interesting, however.  And generous.  Served in colorful bowls, a flaky plank of roasted cod draped itself over a pert barley risotto, fragrant with lime and amped up with kicks of jalapeno.  Its green hue and creamy texture come from a smooth mash of avocado and yogurt, caching tender half-moons of gently sweet, starchy plantain.  It tastes healthy, but nourishing at the same time, and not just a little indulgent.  Another dish featured tender hunks of coconut-poached salmon over generous spools of soba studded with sea beans and  eggplant.  There were two vegetarian options on the roster as
Coconut Poached Salmon
 well... well, actually just one.   A Spiced Quinoa actually took it all the way to vegan, but then the Black Rice listed just below appeared vegetarian until you got to the bonito garnish- a tricky little addition to an otherwise PETA-friendly concoction.   Not that I care, but it seemed odd (why not just nutritional yeast or something?).  Other large plates included that Pulled Pork mentioned above, a Lebanese-inflected chicken, a modest portion of steak, so carnivores are not neglected. 

I think we chose poorly selecting dessert, whereas in retrospect I wish I would've opted for the flowery fruit soup, but instead I was lured by yuzu towards a roasted plantain and avocado gelato concoction, not quite summery enough for the steamy climes outdoors.  But not only that, it was a little flat and one-dimensional, not to mention autumnal, where there are months still to go before sweet potatoes become relevant.  The black lava salt atop the gelato was a nice touch, though.

Most of Dimes attention comes from the brunch crowd, but all of its menus have a breezy, healthful appeal.  I'm not sure it's quite up to all the hype, but it's definitely a fun little adventure in which to partake.  In short, Dimes is certainly worth a few of your dimes.

 49 Canal Street
Phone 212-925-1300

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