Culinary Slowdown. Its a real first world problem. Its when a food enthusiast wakes up one day realizing he hasnt eaten anything noteworthy in days or weeks. Its when a food writer suddenly experiences difficulties coming up with new ideas and writes only about pizza for two weeks! Its when you sit in a restaurant with your spouse after a mini hiatus and the spouse gives you that “you know, we could have been anywhere” look. I’ve been there before.
Usually during a culinary slowdown you start to ask questions. What’s the meaning of all this? What’s the meaning of life? Is there a point to this blog? When I read reviews of restaurants during my travels, I always wonder how do restaurant owners dont end up in therapy. And then I remind myself that I myself may contribute to the therapy bill. Who am I to tell Mr owner that his product is shit after one visit. This is a tough business, and way too many variables involved in a good vs bad meal starting with tastes and expectations. But it’s 2017, the age of Trip Advisor and Yelp. And the owners need to… well, own it. Hopefully at the very least, some look at these as constructive criticism
It started so promising. A little suspicious, but promising. No waits or difficulties getting a table at a prime time of 7 pm on a Saturday. And then there was the space under the high top table (like a drawer without the drawer) for the camera. I suppose you can put forks, napkins and purses in there as well, but it was the big boy camera that finally, finally found its space, a home,
Another variable was the three inches separating us from the guests next to us. You combine tables into one long commune table, separate one table by three inches, and BAM! You got privacy. As a result it was a tale of two hearing aids. Loud but manageable first hour when the people next to us had a simple conversation. But when 4 girls, who managed to only communicate by shouting showed up… It was like passing by a busy construction site, getting whistled at by the friendly workers, and this time sticking around for a good hour.
With all these accolades, its tough to keep expectations unblemished. Bon Apettit named Wildair the #8 new restaurant in the country in 2016. But midway in, when the squash blossoms came in overcooked into a messy mush, it started going south. We did enjoy the seemingly famous, clean tasting, Beef Tartare. But presentation and flavors were short of similar tartares, some in the immediate area (Estela). The combination of Littleneck clams, with not too fishy XO, and almond broth worked well. But there was just not enough of it to fully enjoy between two people.
I expected more from another menu staple, the Littlegem Lettuce. It was citrusy alright but not balanced and flavorful enough to make you forget that you are eating lettuce. The Skate came oddly covered with the cabbage instead of the other way around. Perhaps if they can think of a way to open that cabbage like a flower when the plate arrives. This was one of the better dishes, especially aided by the Sorana Beans. But a far cry from another Skate by a Contra product (alumni), Gloria in Hell’s Kitchen.
The closest to a saving grace was the crispy warm house bread. With just about every dish we turned to the bread for comfort and satisfaction. To me its the true must. The Chocolate hazelnut tart was simple and fine, while the Panna cotta and green apple granita was too frozen and not so fine. Combine some granita with the tart and you got something.
142 Orchard St (Rivington/Delancey), Lower East Side
Rating: One Z (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Bread, Clams, Beef Tartare, Skate