It's always seemed to me that the pre-theater / Broadway / Lincoln Center / 9th avenue food arena was lacking something. Call it a lack of originality or authenticity or what have you but in that area of town I always struggle to find a place to eat that features interesting food with a non-stuffy atmosphere and non back-breaking prices. Well, I think I've found it in Whym and I can't wait to go back.
To start, if you've been to Whym previously, the place is completely renovated. They expanded into the neighboring store to create a fairly sizable dining area. The new setup features a nice and well lit bar area with several booths and a couple high tops. The decor would be best characterized as fairly modern / hip (take that for what it's worth from someone who is decidedly unhip) filled with browns, yellows and oranges. The atmosphere was energetic but not frenetic. The view from outside the restaurant gives the feeling that the inside is uncomfortably bright (the restaurant beams like a beacon on the fairly unassuming block) but once seated the light and ambience is decidedly more pleasant.
Our service was terrific. We sat after the theater rush (around 7:45), so my take will probably not be quite as helpful to those looking for pre-theater take, but hopefully it gives some helpful insight. Our server was prompt with drink orders and food orders and was very helpuful in navigating the eclectic menu options. No complaints whatsoever about service.
The food: fantastic. The menu being so diverse and in some places unique I was a little wary of the quality of food. I mean when one sees a "Chipotle Meatloaf" on the menu you have to be a little concerned that menu is meant to shock more than deliver. But deliver it did. We started with the Calamari with sweet chili sauce. The sauce had a little more heat than a sweet and sour sauce and a little more tang. The calamari was much meatier than your run of the mill appetizer calamari. I might have suggested less sauce or that the sauce be on the side but that it wasn't overdone more than I personally prefer a light dusting of sauce on my calamari. We also order the crab ravioli with brie, asparagus, sweet corn and basil butter sauce. The ravioli was perfectly cooked, the sauce was a great compliment and overall it was a very good appetizer.
The main courses at our table included the aforementioned Chipotle Meatloaf with sauteed spinach, vermont cheddar, mashed potatoes and double smoked bacon-mushroom gravy (2 orders, in fact), Grilled Marinated Shrimp with bosc pear and brie quesadilla and avocado ginger salsa, and the Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with pineapple-vegetable stir fry. I ordered the meatloaf in what was my first foray into restaurant meatloafing (for lack of a better phrase). I'm not sure I even liked meatloaf before I ordered this but after eating the Chipotle Meatloaf I could eat meatloaf for the rest of my life and be happy. The dish is not heavy but it is not light either. The cheddar-potato mash and bacon gravy made the dish. The chipotle flavor gives the loaf a distinct spiciness that is offset well by the mild flavors in the gravy and mash. I loved this dish so much that I wanted to sit and wait to become hungry again so I could order seconds. The marinated shrimp quesadillas got rave reviews from our party though I did not personally try them. The Mahi Mahi was perfectly cooked and a very light dish in contrast to the loaf that I devoured. I usually prefer a creamier sauce with my fish but the light acid of the pineapple was a great compliment to the Mahi's flavor. Overall our table was more than satisfied with our orders.
After a delicious meal we begrudgingly ordered a couple desserts to share for the table. And as good as the entrees were, the desserts were better. The desserts at Whym were so good that it's worth going just to sit at the bar, order a drink and order dessert. We ordered the Cranberry Cheesecake with nilla wafer-mint crust and cranberry compote. We also ordered the "S'Mores-Wich". I loved the cheesecake but the S'Mores-Wich almost brought me to tears it was so good. It was a perfectly comprised mass of gooey chocolate covered soft graham crackery shell with a melted marshmellowy middle. I realize that this description doesn't necessarily use words recognized by Oxford's English but I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to properly describe how much I enjoyed it. The desserts were quite simply well done.
In terms of pre-theater dining options, most places fall within a range of helplessly contrived to the overdone (and overpriced) with a few terrific options mixed in for those in-the-know. I gladly add Whym to the mix and invite anyone with the guts to try it to enjoy the wide variety of options they have to offer. Lastly, don't miss the S'More. I can't emphasize that enough.