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Eaters’ Journal 6/25/16: Tapestry, Morgenstern’s, Glady’s, Fung Tu, Santina, and More

Field notes from Eater editors about recent meals around New York City

Tapestry: It’s one of those restaurants that makes a fetish of its fusion. Tapestry is the new project of chef and cookbook author Suvir Saran, once the groundbreaking chef at Union Square’s Devi. He has now returned from a stint in San Francisco and set down in the Village along Greenwich Avenue’s restaurant row. The night I went, the tri-level room – decorated with abstract paintings and gold-tinted sculptures, but still more casual than elegant — was filled with Saran admirers.

We dined well on a sea bass ceviche swamped in a wave of green mint-and-coriander chutney, a plate of cauliflower-dotted pappardelle that benefited from a slight charring of the vegetable, and a masala fried chicken that united India and the American South. Only a frito misto that varied little from its Italian counterpart, and arrived a bit grease-sodden, proved disappointing. – Robert Sietsema

Morgenstern's: After a dinner with friends at Wildair, we skipped the heavenly hazelnut-chocolate tart (le wistful sigh) and wandered a few blocks east to get dessert at Morgenstern's. (Does an ice cream parlor count as a restaurant? Is this question the new "Is a taco a sandwich?") The honest truth is I am sort of neutral about ice cream. I mean, it's fine. It's an okay food. I feel about the same about ice cream as I do about, I don't know, rice pilaf? I appreciate it and I'll happily eat it when it's in front of me and I recognize that sometimes it can be transcendent. But on balance I don't grok the obsessive love that other people seem to have for the sweet frozen stuff. Here's what I do love, though: malt. And Morgenstern's chocolate malted crunch ice cream may make me a believer yet. It's spectacularly creamy, so much more malty than it is chocolatey, and there are little crunchy spheres studded throughout that are inexplicably blue in color, so when you lick your cone you get the unexpectedly delightful visual of teal streaks ripping through the cocoa brown. And oh my god, sugar cones! Why didn't anyone remind me how great sugar cones are? — Helen Rosner

Photo by Daniel Krieger

Santina: Remember the 2015 restaurant of the summer, a glass box of a gastronomic hot spot that made the entire venue feel like, to passers-by, a real-time museum exhibit of fashion and fortune? Of course you do, because the Major Food Group's Mediterranean-themed spot is still packed at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday. Prices, alas, aren't what they used to be. Cocktails have risen to $17. The blue crab spaghetti is $29. And the chickpea crepe with ruby red tuna and capers, previously $12, is now $21. "Let's just reverse the numbers."

To be fair, the tuna (insanely spicy on a recent visit) feels like a larger portion than it was in the early days. The $36 orata, slathered in olive oil and covered with a rainforest canopy's worth of mint and basil, is as perfectly cooked as anything at Le Bernardin. And the spendy spaghetti tastes as if it's infused with a more intense flavor of crab than I remember during my review-related visits. The bartender caps off my visit with a daiquiri laced with tiki bitters and salt (STRONG BUY). For most, that would be enough of a dessert, but I follow that up with the tricolor cannoli that are reviled by so many. I still think they're among the best in the city, and I could tell you why but you'll likely still disagree so I won't. In any case I'd like to throw my weight around an even more controversial statement: In a year of so many mediocre restaurant openings, Santina just might be the 2016 restaurant of the summer as well. Who's with me? — Ryan Sutton

Pret A Manger: Is there any hole so dark as the clinically lit maw of a Pret A Manger in Midtown, its walls covered in consultant-generated platitudes that insist, a little too cleverly, on the virtuosity of its foodstuffs, stacked and arranged like bricks, their bland diversity of nutrient options so numerous as to take up an entire wall?

Anyway so last week I briefly gave up on life and a purchased a Salmon and Pickled Veggies Power Lunch with chimichurri vinaigrette, a compact, 530-calorie bundle of past-peak food trends: avocado, acid-forward fermented stuff, a random assortment grains designed to appeal to the kind of trendbeast who would resign all hope and find themselves in a Pret, and... "power."

And it was fine???? The chimichurri vinaigrette is an atomic bomb of acid that vaporizes your soft mouthflesh in such a way that it doesn't really matter what you're putting inside of it. I couldn't even taste the can of cold brew that I had snagged to drink afterward and I'm totally positive that's not because cold brew doesn't taste like anything at all. Anyways, this is all just to say that if you are at a point in your life where you no longer derive any pleasure whatsoever from sensory experiences, I would highly recommend a Pret power bowl. — Matt Buchanan

Emmy Squared: I wasn’t really sure what Detroit-style pizza was until word came out that the Emily team was opening Emmy Squared, and when people asked, I said it’s pizza with sauce added on top. But if someone asked me now, I would tell them that it’s basically souped up cheesy bread — and that is an amazing, amazing thing. Good cheesy bread is thick and salty and bready and garlicky and cheesy, and Emmy Squared pizza’s thick but airy and bouncy base reminds me of my best experiences with cheesy bread. Except instead of just cheese, we got pepperoni, sauce, AND cheese on one, and mushrooms, truffle cream, AND cheese on another. Plus: the crust is crispy and slightly burnt at the edges. All due respect to Emily’s wood-fired pies, but this is definitely my preferred way to eat pizza. — Serena Dai

Photo by Daniel Krieger

Hill Country: Because I can never get enough barbecue, even the week following both the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party and our own Barbecue Week, I ventured up to Hill Country because I got an insider tip that there was a special on Father's Day. Indeed there was: a Prime grade 90 day dry-aged bone-in smoked prime rib. Selling for $32 per pound. This is extremely expensive for barbecue (Hill Country’s wet-aged prime sells for under $17 per pound) but it is comparatively cheap for dry aged prime rib. In a steakhouse, for example, prime rib, and especially one aged for this amount of time, would likely sell for twice the price.

But even if I had paid twice the amount I would have got my money’s worth. It was quite simply ethereal. In terms of tenderness, I could literally pull the cut apart using my fingers with little effort, yielding succulent, perfectly medium rare strands of beef. But it was the upfront funk of dry-aging that registers most significantly: it reveals deep, musky notes, followed by the punch of post oak smoke. And yet through it all the flavor of the beef was not lost either, the funk and smoke serving to highlight its sweetness and essential meatiness. — Nick Solares

Glady’s: Opened as an upscale sandwich shop in 2013, Glady’s transformed itself into a Caribbean restaurant in 2014. Its primary culinary distinction lies in jerking chicken over hardwood, while most Brooklyn places do it under the broiler or — if you’re lucky — in a charcoal-filled 60-gallon drum outside on the sidewalk. Curious to see how good the chicken was, I recently paid a first visit to the restaurant.

Everything coming from that wood-burning oven smelled and looked good. The jerk chicken was indeed spectacular, occupying a midground between Jamaican jerk and Texas ‘cue. But a single serving looked so sad on the plate — nothing but bird, with no starches or other sides. Ditto the bowl of pepper shrimp, though the goat curry came with a small bowl of white rice. The lively and generous Jamaican cuisine had been totally reconfigured in the stingy, small-plate format.

Indeed, the menu was virtually starch-free, too, unless you order a side of rice and peas or the oblong sugary fritter called festival, which is more like a dessert. The appetite craves fries, dumplings, or hardo bread. The tight layout of the place reminded me of Nishi, proving especially uncomfortable when crowded. Glady’s seems to exist for its strong mixed drinks, but the food is solid. – Robert Sietsema

The Lobster Place: I made the bold choice of walking into Chelsea Market at lunch time on a Monday this week, seeking and eventually finding solace at The Lobster Place. In the back right corner of this brightly lit space is a little shack that shares a kitchen with Cull & Pistol next door. I ordered a shrimp bánh mì which is served cold and exactly what I didn't know I needed on an 80+ degree day. The shrimp is grilled lightly and served with the usual cucumber, carrot, and cilantro on what was a perfectly toasted baguette. — Patty Diez

Fung Tu: I’ve been meaning to try Fung Tu for some time — colleague and Eater critic Ryan Sutton, for one, loves it — so I was excited to go one Friday night. Sadly, it was entirely mediocre. The first bad sign was when I paid $5 to snag a primetime reservation through an app and walked in to find a completely empty bar and several empty tables. Oof. Then the food started rolling in. The spicy mustard chicken wings were good, albeit small, and the chow fun with chorizo tasted decent, too. But at the end of the night, the two of us paid more than $100 for a meal, and now, I can barely remember what we ate. Nothing was outstanding; nothing was terrible. Nice vibe, but I’ll need to be convinced to try it again. — Serena Dai

Glasserie: I hadn't been to this unusual Greenpoint restaurant since opening chef Sarah Kramer left two years ago. I'm pleased to report that the food is still really great.  The "mezze brunch" was a dozen or so small plates, most of which were just lightly prepared spring vegetables, plus grilled bread, hummus, tahini, and pickles.  For $19 per person, we got twice as much food as we could eat. Really good deal. I also just like the vibe of this place. The dining room is gigantic and oddly laid out, and the servers are mellow but they don't miss a beat. — Greg Morabito

Top photo: Tapestry by Nick Solares

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