Someone (famous) said that NYC is a ghost town, but have they been downtown? There are no ghosts there, but lots and lots of people. People are eating outside in droves, masks and puffy jackets and all. In fact, there’s a bit of a scene again, with people being turned away by a host holding an iPad. The sceniest new entrant is the Southeast Asian restaurant The Tyger in Soho. As the name suggests, The Tyger is a stylish and bold restaurant, where the colors are bright and the flavors pack a lot of ferocious heat. It’s no kitty cat that purrs, The Tyger is a beast that roars.
I could feel the energy at The Tyger when we arrived for dinner. The young 20 and 30 somethings were out and about, looking to be seen in outfits other than sweatpants. This was done in a socially distanced way, of course. Each table has a plastic safeguard that separates parties from one another. What’s nice about The Tyger is that it’s one of the few restaurants that can accommodate a bigger group for outdoor dining. Maybe there 6 or 8 of you in your bubble? There’s a big booth waiting for you all.
My one vivid memory of our dinner at The Tyger was that my mouth was on fire for a lot of it. I specifically remember the Singaporean chili crab fried rice and the eggplant curry really forcing me to drink lots of water (that never helps, does it?) and eat a lot of white rice to fan the flames. But I still went through the torment because these two dishes were quite worth the pain.
The banh xeo crispy turmeric and coconut crepe with roasted pumpkin was my other favorite. It was stiffer than a traditional banh xeo crepe, resembling more of a crust that was topped with pumpkin and herbs. It seemed like an ode to the fall season of pumpkin spice and latte, typically a Western obsession, but now with a detour through Southeast Asia.
Other smaller dishes with a milder flavor profile included the oyster mushroom tempura and the steak tartare. The tempura, despite being made with mushrooms, tasted as meaty and robust as a pork rind. You could snack on these with your drinks and dangerously fill up on them. I had such high hopes for the steak tartare, but instead I was disappointed by the lack of flavor in the meat.
Whenever I go to a Southeast Asian restaurant, I can’t help but order nasi goreng or some sort of coconut curry. And of course, I did the same at The Tyger. They do a different take on the nasi goreng, giving it an infusion of squid ink and other flavors of the sea. I remember eating a bowl of squid ink paella in Spain many years ago, and the flavors of the nasi goreng reminded me of that happy time. I guess our eyes were a little big for our stomachs, and ordering the beef coconut curry was a little overkill. It took up space is all I can say about it.
The options for dessert are limited. Almost every table ordered a coconut cream concoction, so we went along with the people’s choice and ordered the same. The dessert looked fun and enticing, but all that billowy cream was a lot of smoke and mirrors, and it was a rather plain dish. But the point of going to The Tyger is to rev your night for something more, not to end things with a nice bowl of ice cream. Skip the dessert and head straight to whatever bar that awaits you next.
1 Howard St (between Lafayette and Centre St)
New York, NY 10013
Make indoor and outdoor reservations here.