Visited last night. They did a nice job with the space: high-ish ceilings lent an open, airy, and clean feel to the room.
Service was still getting its choreography down -- wine and water glasses suffered from chronic neglect(which, I imagine, is to be expected at such an early moment in a restaurant's life).
Decided to order an off-dry Riesling as a safe bet to hold its own against the assertive chile presence we expected in all the dishes. (Wine was served in stemless glasses. They have the same glasses at Wallse and, besides looking modern on the table, I don't see the advantage of grabbing a glass of white wine and instantly warming it with your hand every time you take a sip).
The first courses that stood out were the spring rolls and the glazed pork rib with a cabbage salad. The spring rolls were incredibly well integrated. The texture of each individual ingredient within the crisp, light exterior was discreet and identifiable.
The baby shrimp had a resilient texture and paired nicely with the slender, crunchy batonnets of carrots that were layered next to them. The pork, presented as four cubes of tender, marbled meat on a bed of raw cabbage coated with a tart dressing and thin slices of Thai Bird chiles, quickly disappeared from view.
We also sampled the frog's legs, which had terrific flavor that was heightened when coupled with the cold shot of pineapple consomme that was offered as an antidote of sorts to the heat of the chile mayonnaise that coated the frog.
The dish would probably be better if the thighs were boned out (like those at the chef Angelo Sosa's first kitchen, Jean Georges. The frog's legs in a young garlic soup there are easy to pick up and easily eat frog lollipop style).
The two entrees that were clear winners at our table were the Halibut and the Veal Cheeks. While the halibut was a dish that flirted with being overly derivative of similar fish preparations at Spice Market, it had something original to offer. It was presented in a bowl of fragrant broth and coated in a flourish of szechwan peppercorns and micro-herbs. A very clean and delicious dish.
The veal cheeks were presented in a clay pot and as the lid was removed tableside, a heady, almost intoxicating jasmine, coriander, and coconut perfume washed over the entire table. The meat was not at all fatty but toothsome and flavorful. The cheeks were nestled atop perfectly cooked rice floating in a curry-style sauce, profused with nice textual variation in the form of granny smith apple slivers.
The desserts were surprisingly noteworthy. The green tea pot de creme, the peanut butter cheesecake, even the strawberry szechwan peppercorn sorbet, were all truly unique and delicious.
We were surprised that the teas were not really pushed at all by the staff (the name does, after all, mean "drink tea"). We sampled one and it was quite special. These should be more aggressively marketed but I do understand that there are plans in the works to create a tasting menu paired with teas.
Overall, an enjoyable meal. Worth a try for sure.
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