Saturday, February 5, 2011

Eating and Drinking Around the Lower East Side

Way back in October I was very excited about the opening of a new restaurant around the corner from me on Orchard and Canal called The Fat Radish, I posted about it at the time, but had yet eaten there.  Since that posting I have been twice and love it.  The vibe is friendly and fun, and the food is consistently good.  It's a restaurant that up until a couple of years ago you would have had to go to Brooklyn to experience.  Neil and I went one night, I think it was a Tuesday about a month ago and it was impossible to get a table, but we were able to make a reservation for the next night no problem.  now the inevitable has happened the New York Times food critic Sam Sifton has reviewed it, he gave it one star.  The review is fun and most accurate to my experience, though it does seem like he had to choose something not to like which was the Monk fish - which the night we had it was delicious.

Here is how the review starts:

THERE are two ways to look at the Fat Radish, which opened spare and loftlike on lower Orchard Street a few months ago. 

One is that it’s a smart little joint out of a Jamie Oliver photo shoot, a restaurant where almost everyone’s attractive, the cooking is good, the bill isn’t crazy, and you’d be a regular if you could. All are welcome, and the fries cooked in duck fat are superb.

I for one wish I could be a regular and be able to decide one cold snowy night that I didn't want to cook and say to Neil:  Hey honey lets go to The Fat Radish tonight!

...and go downstairs, walk a few blocks and be tucked into our favorite table.  Of course that is a fantasy now, because this already popular, packed restaurant is going to be so "fully committed" it'll take three weeks of planning to get a 5:30 reservation on a Tuesday.   It couldn't happen to a nicer place. And if you live in the city or are planning a visit I definitely think The Fat Radish should be on your list of places to eat.  My only comment about the food, is also about fish, I think for a restaurant that is calling their cuisine "British" they should have Fish and Chips as part of there regular menu, with chips that aren't cooked in duck fat so that our vegetarian and kosher friends can eat them.
Speaking of scenes: a friend invited me to Beauty and Essex Thursday night.  Beauty and Essex was, up until this summer, a crappy furniture store on Essex street a block north of the Essex Street market, one of those places you barely even register when you pass by because the same couch had been in the window for 40 years.  So no surprise they closed up shop.  Then within what seems like minutes Beauty and Essex was born.  Run by the same people who own The Stanton Social just around the corner, this is a two story hedonistic, over the top bar and restaurant.

The ruse is that when you walk by on the street there is what looks to be a small pawn shop, the large line backer sized African American man standing by the door at the end of the shop clues you into the fact that this is no pawn shop at all and that something very interesting is happening behind that door.

Walk through the door and the sensory overload takes over:  white fur lined walls and a huge chandelier guide you to the second floor.  Directly in front of you when you enter is command central, several young women in black cocktail dresses behind a counter busily interacting with computer screens.  Beyond that a large rooms with a bar, tables chairs all dimly lit and sexy.

Immediately I was approached and asked if I wanted to check my coat.  I got there at 7:15, my friends had arrived at 6:45 to get a table upstairs by the time I left at 9:30 it was so crowded it was hard to push past all the people to get to the street.  Food here is fine, they have a dinner menu, but all we had were small plates, finger food so that you can drink more and stay longer.  It was all fine, better than fine actually and if it weren't for the scene that makes eating so besides the point I'd be curious to go back again and try having dinner.  The upstairs is split into 2 rooms, the back room where we sat is larger with a banquet running the length of the wall opposite which is a bar.  Low small tables and very comfortable upholstered chairs  run the length of the banquet.  The ceilings are recessed tin at the center of which is a very simple light fixture with one silver reflecting bulb in it.  It was nice to see the juxtaposition of something as simple and old fashioned as the ceiling treatment as compared to the Rococo chandelier that hangs in the stairwell.  The front room is darker and I really didn't get much of a look at it, my senses where already over loaded!

I'm not a cocktail scene type guy so as much as I could enjoy the art direction and glamor of this place it was a bit too upscale for my hipster wanna be farm to table sensibilities. Certainly though, regardless of what your sensibilities are this is definitely a place to have a drink at - just to see it.

Remember get there early!

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