Tasty French Plates @ Wallflower

I loved my meal at The Eddy so much that I had to try the food at its sister restaurant Wallflower. Wallflower is similarly a small, neighborhood spot, this time in the West Village, and much, much more French. You really feel as though you’ve just stepped into a small, chic cafe in the Marais district, tended to by a dandy bartender pouring things from stylishly misshapen bottles. The food luckily is just as charming as its surroundings. It is a tad rich, as French food tends to be, but there’s always an element in the dish that cuts through the fat and reels it in.

The foie gras on brioche, for instance, is a heavy delicacy, but the candied fruit transforms it into a savory jam that can be applied endlessly to the lovely, rectangular croutons that accompany it. The hamachi, a fatty variety of white fish, is dressed in olive oil in homage to its buttery nature, but the pine nuts and grapefruit appropriately temper these rich tendencies. The  breezy and likeable chevre cheese platter was the lightest of the bunch, resembling a hybrid of a very mild ricotta and goat cheese seasoned with bits of honey. The point is that you will indulge, but not overly so–the Wallflower successfully adheres to the less is more strategy with full flavored foods.

wallflower - chevre with frean breakfast radishes and basil
chevre cheese with french breakfast radishes and basil
wallflower - foie gras torchon with quince mostarda and granny smith apple
foie gras torchon, quince mostarda and granny smith apple
wallflower - hamachi with grapefruit pine nuts horseradish aioli
hamachi with grapefruit, pine nuts and horseradish aioli

The appetizers seemed to be constructed around the theme of tempered excess to leave some room for the entrees, which unabashedly embraced luscious, marbled proteins. The salmon seemed to assume the quality of butter with the way it literally just melted into my mouth. I had a similar experience with the pork dish, which was served as both a belly and a loin. Pork belly is such a caricature of fatty excess, so no surprise about the richness there, but the loin, a cut susceptible to tough, dry treatment, managed to dissolve as well. The seafood red wine broth was packed with flavor, but not in a rhapsodic way that left me wanting more. I felt like I was swallowing pure squid ink at times, and while some of the seafood and bread helped to dilute the effects, it wasn’t by very much.

wallflower - scottish salmon, tomato coulis, garigoule artichokes
scottish salmon, tomato coulis, barigoule artichokes
wallflower - pork tenderloin, turnip, barley, plum
pork tenderloin, turnip, barley and plum
wallflower - octopus, clams, rouille crostini and red wine broth
octopus, clams, rouille crostini and red wine broth

For a restaurant called the Wallflower, it surprisingly has a lot to say through its food, the majority of it extremely good. Perhaps the name is more of a reference to how it’s happy to keep a low profile and assume the status of a neighborhood restaurant–it isn’t attempting to be a Dirty French or a Pastis. But it can’t be a wallflower for long, because sure enough more and more will take notice of this little place and force it to be the social butterfly it was meant to be.


Wallflower
235 W. 12th St (between W. 4th St and Greenwich Ave)
New York, NY 10014
Apparently the phone doesn’t work?? Email [email protected]

Wallflower

Favorite Foods of 2014

2014 was a good year for food. It was a year that involved an unprecedented amount of travel, due to the record number of friends getting married this year, and many of their ceremonies took place internationally. As a result, this created many opportunities for interesting meals–breakfast sushi at Tsukiji market or unripe strawberries in Copenhagen are not experiences that can be easily had back at home.

While the international meals were memorable, the majority of my favorite meals took place in New York, and Kansas City and New Orleans weren’t too shabby, either. Honestly, with so many chefs training at the same restaurants and then setting shop elsewhere, you can find really good cooking anywhere. But that also means that many of the meals and food trends seem all too similar. It’s amazing how many small plates, Brooklyn-esque farm-to-table restaurants exist in the world.

I personally preferred those meals that still retained their regional traits to the ambiguous New World Global cuisine that proliferated everywhere else. So my favorite food moments in 2014 crosses many borders and price points, a reflection of the glamorous and janky meals that were unique to the cities I ate them in. In no particular order, here is a round up of my favorite foods in 2014.

1. the z-man sandwich from oklahoma joe’s in kansas city

oklahoma joe's - the z-man sandwich

2. the melt-in-your-mouth sea eel from nakamura in tokyo

nakamura - 18 sea eel

3. the epic peking duck dinner at decoy in new york

peking duck

4. the ricotta gnocchi from the eddy in new york

ricotta gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, squash, rosemary and hazelnuts

5. the husk meringue with corn mousse dessert from cosme in new york

husk meringue and corn mousse

6. the duck carnitas from cosme in new york

duck carnitas with white onions, radish and salsa verde

7. the duck fat rice with kale and chinese sausage from tuome in new york

rice with kale, chinese sausage and duck fat

8. the beef tartare from manfreds in copenhagen

beef tartare with watercress

9. the breakfast sushi from tsukiji market in tokyo

image

10. the omakase at sushi nakazawa in new york

nakazawa hamming it up with shrimp

11. the whitefish donburi bowl from ivan ramen slurp shop in new york

ivan ramen slurp shop - smoked whitefish donburi

12. the kale and wild mushroom risotto from gato in new york

kale and wild mushroom paella with crispy artichokes and egg

13. the lobster ravioli from cherche midi in new york

homemade lobster ravioli

14. the #1 bagel sandwich from black seed bagels in new york

black seed - sandwich 1

15. the butcher’s steak at st. anselm in new york (my pictures were so crappy and not post-worthy, but i would highly recommend that you brave the no reservation policy and make the trek out to brooklyn for this amazing piece of meat)

Inventive, Accessible Tasting Menu @ The Eddy

The East Village is on a tear with new hit restaurants–Huertas, Tuome, Cherche Midi, and now The Eddy. The Eddy sounds like the name of an old neighborhood pub, like The King’s Arms or The Eagle and Child, but in reality it is a small and stylish spot that offers New American cuisine in a very comfortable setting. It almost feels out of place in the super casual East Village, like you would expect to find this in the West Village somewhere, but then again why should I be surprised when the gentrification of this neighborhood has been pretty in your face ($18 tacos at Empellon, high rises sprouting right and left, David Schwimmer creating a ruckus with his renovations).

When I first sat down for dinner at The Eddy, I was having a bad case of the Mondays. Work was annoying,  and it was cold and raining miserably throughout the whole day. I was pretty grumpy, and because of this attitude, I felt entitled to eat my feelings and decided that this would be a $65 tasting menu kind of day. The food at The Eddy was exactly what I needed. Everything was so comforting and familiar, but never boring or complacent. There was always one element to the preparation that threw me for a loop and made a lasting impression. No one really thinks too hard about panna cotta, but when there’s ice slush and cardamom involved, then you do take pause.

The first few courses come out family style so that the whole group can nosh their way through some communal plates. Up first were some excellent finger foods in the form of fried green tomatoes with smoked cheddar and beef tendon puffs. Let’s talk about these beef tendon puffs for a minute–can Frito Lay package something like this in a bag? Fried crispy beef tendons, surprisingly light and airy, that dissolve in your mouth, with some briney roe lingering for salt and depth? Forget cappuccino chips, let’s bring this to market. The fried green tomatoes were also delicious, because, frankly, anything fried and covered in melted cheese has that kind of an effect. Sweet, juicy, tangy and smokey, it was like eating bbq ketchup in a tater tot form. It sounds weird but it really works.

fried green tomatoes and beef tendon puffs
fried green tomatoes and beef tendon puffs

The second course consisted of burrata with squash, pepitas and seared scallop with chanterelles. Unfortunately, the restaurant had run out of burrata that night, so they substituted it with ricotta cheese. It tasted fine, but nothing can compare with having the liquid, creamy core of a luscious burrata ball meld seamlessly into everything in its path.

ricotta with delicata squash and pepitas
ricotta with delicata squash and pepitas

The plump scallops were cooked perfectly, and the diced pears were a nice textural diversion in case you found the scallops boring. It was interesting to see how the sweetness had been extracted from the Asian pears so that they assumed a more neutral quality, more parsnip than juicy fruit. I don’t know if this preparation added anything to the dish, and frankly, I’m not sure if the presence of pears was even a necessary one, but it certainly was an unusual way of presenting a fruit, and it did make me think about it even after the meal was over.

seared scallops with chanterelles, kohlrabi and asian pears
seared scallops with chanterelles, kohlrabi and asian pears

It was the third course where the tasting menu peaked–the ricotta gnocchi. These soft pillows unearth mounds of dreamy ricotta cheese that are unlike anything else. If you think gnocchi filled with cheese is overdone and nothing out of the ordinary, you haven’t tried the gnocchi here. Something about the light wrapper seamlessly unleashing this silky, puffy cream is different, and the toasted hazelnuts keep things interesting with their texture and contrasting taste. You keep tearing through them so that you can have more and more of this filling. Unfortunately they only give you about 2 per person, so the dream ends quickly. Unless you order another one for yourself. Whole order, not half.

ricotta gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, squash, rosemary and hazelnuts
ricotta gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, squash, rosemary and hazelnuts

The entrees were up next, although these seemed a bit more like supporting cast than their small plate super stars. The arctic char was frankly a little bland if you did not eat the crispy skin on, and the ribbons of parsnips didn’t have that much to contribute to the overall flavors. The duck left a much more lasting impression. It was juicy and plump, as good duck meat should be, and the sweet potato puree and vanilla infusion made it seem like Christmas on a plate. And, completely appropriate, because ’tis the season.

arctic char with parsnips and pumpkin seed oil
arctic char with parsnips and pumpkin seed oil
tea cured duck with sweet potato radish and vanilla
tea cured duck with sweet potato radish and vanilla

The desserts concluded the show in an appropriate fashion–short, sweet and to the point. Panna cotta tends to be one of my least favorite desserts, because I don’t see how you can get all that excited by vanilla cream, but the panna cotta at The Eddy is no plain Jane. You can’t be bland if you’re flavored with cardamom and basil, and lest you be worried that the kitchen is doing this for the sake of being different, the spices are subtle and very much welcome. The olive oil cake was perhaps a little more conventional of the two, but again, there was more than meets the eye of this crowd pleaser. The golden loaf was locked with the rich, lush flavors of the olive oil, especially along its crisp, browned edges, and the bright citrus notes were a welcoming offset. The blueberries served alongside were so plump and juicy, and the lavender milk coated the cake in an arresting, floral veil that was extremely memorable.

cardamom panna cotta with concord grape ice, basil and sea salt
cardamom panna cotta with concord grape ice, basil and sea salt
toasted olive oil cake with lavender milk and blueberries
toasted olive oil cake with lavender milk and blueberries

It’s restaurants like The Eddy that make me sad about having moved out of the East Village. How great would it be to just roll up to this place, have a seat at the bar, and go to town on some ricotta gnocchi? It’s such a pleasant and comfortable place that is good for so many occasions–date night, dinner with the parents, catching up with friends. In the meantime, it’s going to be a destination restaurant for me, but one definitely worth the trip east.


The Eddy
342 E 6th St (between 2nd and 1st Ave)
New York, NY 10003
(646) 895-9884

The Eddy