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The Early Word on Todd English's Latest, The Ember Room

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Earlier this month, Todd English opened Ember Room in Hell's Kitchen to the public. This, his third restaurant to open in the city over the past year, also features the involvement of Kittichai's Ian Chalermkittichai, with his experience is driving the "American-Asian barbecue" concept here. Like any of English's restaurants, there are those quick to praise and those even quicker to pan. To the early word:

The "Favorite Todd English Restaurant" News: Eat Big Apple files a positive review that comes as a surprise even to him. "A massive oven adorned with the letters T.E. dominates the space. (Surprisingly, that's the only reference to Todd English I found. Quite a welcome change from his other establishments, where everything reminds you that you are in the house of Chef English).

For small plates, the miso Japanese eggplants had a nice crisp charred texture on the outside, having most likely just spent some time in the "TE" emblazoned furnace. I was missing the taste of the miso, the only shortcoming. In contrast to the heavy-handed, grill-mark laden eggplant, the scallops on the other hand, looked delicately seared and plated. The flavors were executed nicely on this dish, and the scallopers had great flavor. Prawns were beautifully charred, releasing ample umami from the shell. The sauce works well, if only it was used in moderation. The whole dish tasted over seasoned...The chicken breast and thighs are brilliantly cooked, incredibly juicy with a flavorful charred surface. If the chef just held back slightly on the seasoning, it would have been one of the best chicken dishes I've had in New York. That said, the restaurant only recently opened, and a bit of inconsistency is not out of the norm. Chef Ian Chalermkittichai has demonstrated talent and creativity, and judging from the reactions of the diners, people are excited about this eclectic menu. There you have it, my favorite Todd English restaurant by a mile, and overall a solid new restaurant in the midtown dining scene." [Eat Big Apple]

The "Bad Service" News: eating the big apple, no affiliation with Eat Big Apple, has some decent food during their visit but it's the service they'll remember most, it seems. "I walked into the small-ish dining room and was surprised to find a dimly lit room covered in almost predictable contemporary Asian decor...We were greeted by an overly zealous waiter (although slightly annoying, I couldn't help but smile at his eagerness) who recommended the Thai meatballs to start...I like the idea of coconut milk soaked breadcrumbs, and could faintly taste the coconut, but I didn't get any of the other Thai flavors that were promised. Not a bad meatball, but not a particularly good one either. Big Slap BBQ Pork Belly: Now I don't know what a "big slap" pork belly is but I do know a maple-soy glaze when I see one. And that glaze was well worth the extra calories...My entree, Red Chili Glazed Sea Bass, was by far the highlight of the night. It was recommended as the restaurant's best dish, and I think I'd have to agree. Sadly, it might just be the only one...The lowest point of the evening was probably our dinner service. Four of five entrees arrived together, but the chicken dish followed maybe 10-15 minutes later...but they ended up comping the dish which was considerate of them. Asian BBQ has a lot to live up to (thanks, Fatty Cue), and sadly this just didn't do it for me." [eating the big apple]

The "Absolute GEM" News: Yelper Heather F. is an unabashed fan. "This place is an absolute GEM in Hell's Kitchen - and what a beautiful experience dining here. From the food, decor, service - we enjoyed every moment. We shared bok choy, thai meatballs, lobster and maybe one or two other dishes. I had a glass of Malbec - and I'm not a huge Malbec girl but my waiter recommended it and it hit the spot. I wish we could have stayed for dessert but we were running late for a show (which the staff completely understood). The staff was extremely knowledgable about every dish and drink, and when I asked about the elephant painting on the wall - they had someone come over and give me an explanation. I recommend this place for pre-theater meal or even a romantic date if you are in the hell's kitchen area." [Yelp]

The Unspectacular News: Yelper Simone M. "I was a bit disappointed. Came here with a few of my friends for the dim sum menu on a Saturday afternoon. The good first. The place looks great. The meatballs were definitely the highlight of the entire meal. We ordered a second plate because they were so good. And the bacon and egg sandwich was really good as well. Now for the bad. The rest of the food was good, but not spectacular. The duck was a huge upset. They gave us as much duck as they did sauce. We each about a teaspoon of duck. Serving sizes were way too small for the price. The cocktails were interesting, to say the least. The worst part was the waiter, who knew nothing about the food and basically refused to ask the chef because he "wasn't personable", kept talking about being hung over, and told us that as part of their job they had to write good reviews on all the sites. I don't know if that last part is really true, but for what's supposed to be a good establishment, he was incredibly inappropriate with the customers. The food was good enough that I may want to try dinner sometimes, but I won't be going out of my way to go back." [Yelp]

The Twitterific News: @abdevo tweets, "Sea Bass was delish, lobster was so-so. Ambiance was cute but restaurant was small." @kmhal tweets her displeasure, "value low. Overpriced, ok food, terrible service. Won't come back." @Jay_Blaq is either making a statement or a suggestion with his tweet. "Eat Like a champion." @GaelGreene tweets, "My hair still smells of smoke.Todd English came in,ignored us&other critic @next table.Didnt even pretend 2 cook." @calebeigsti tweets twice, first to make a recommendation, "Hey #NYC! I highly recommend @EmberRoom for an amazing dining experience! @davidbadash and I went for Valentine's Day and loved it!" and the second to say why, "We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere, drinks, food, and service. Great job, we will be back!" @MirezNY tweets, "flourless cake (only dessert left), it was amazing with bubble room cocktails. The bartender rocked last night. Will be back soon" [Twitter]

The Foursquarer News: Alyssa L. comments, "You will smell like BBQ for days afterwards. Might not be such a bad thing?" Sheila M. says, "Prawns are amazing. Don't fear the heads." Craig B. doesn't hold the service against them. "Major service issues at the moment, but the food and atmosphere is amazing! They just need some time to work out the kinks." Alexandria H., on the other hand, has no problem ripping the service. "After a 45 min wait with a reservation and watching the hostess seat her friend immeditaly , and then waiting 45min for my entree and never getting it??? Uhmmm they have a ways to go. Wanted to love it." Finally, a Todd English fanboy, 2 Plus 2 N., comes out of the shadows, emphatically stating "everything todd E does is nothing short of awesome!" [Foursquare]
—Gary Wong
[photo credit]

Ember Room

647 9th Avenue, New York, NY 10036 212 245 8880

Ember Room

647 9th Ave., New York, NY

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