Tried the Independent in Union Square last night after reading the earlier reviews (link below), and had an enjoyable meal. They have a good selection of wines by the bottle (we chose a French Pouilly Fuisse white burgundy) and good food.
My friend chose the Shrimp Tempura app and dove into it so fast I didn't get any of it. He said it was very good - the tempura was light and crispy; the shrimp perfectly done. I think it came with a soy dipping sauce.
I had the Arugula Salad with fresh figs, serrano ham and shaved parmesan, which was excellent. I saw the white pizza appetizer at another table, which also looked great - a very large, free-form, thin crust pizza with very large seared scallops and I believe goat cheese (unfortunately, I can't remember the other white items). Looks to be a good app to share with another person (although this guy wasn't sharing it with his tablemates!).
For dinner, my dining companion chose the grilled pork chop with white beans and wilted spinach. It was a huge chop - at first I thought it was two. They didn't ask how he wanted it cooked, but it was done to perfection for him - just a light pink in the center, and very moist and perfectly complemented by the sauteed white beans and spinach.
I chose the Alaskan King Salmon in an orange-ginger broth with Toksoi (Japanese greens) and shredded fennel (which I don't think was mentioned on the menu). I'm not a big fan of fennel, although I don't mind a little bit of it. Unfortunately (for me), there was more fennel on the salmon than I would have preferred - it was a bit overpowering mixed in with the orange segments and Toksoi, so I just picked around the fennel. The salmon was perfect - lightly crisp "crust" and beautifully flaky.
We also were served a chef's tasting choice, compliments of the chef, of beef tartare in a tiny fried noodle basket. I'm nowhere near as adventurous as the rest of you 'hounds, so I've never had beef tartare, but I found it interesting. There was a mixture of herbs and/or spices that neither my friend nor I could determine - it wasn't spicy, but definitely gave a slightly pungent aftertaste. Serving the taste of tartare in a miniature fried noodle basket made for great textures and taste - crunchy, pungent, slight sweet and of course, slightly "squishy".
For dessert, we shared the creme fraiche poundcake with lemon verbena ice cream and fresh raspberries. A nice and light ending to the meal - the ice cream was a nice counterpart to the sweetness of the poundcake and raspberries.
The restaurant was barely 1/4-1/3 full the entire time we were there and both bars were empty. We did have excellent service, so maybe the earlier post about poor service was just bad luck on that person's part. It's a tough neighborhood for a restaurant to make a go of it, although "eat" is still surviving (we went in there for an after dinner drink, and they were virtually empty, too). It's almost as if The Independent isn't sure if they want to be an Irish pub, which the "dark bar" definitely resembles, or an Asian/Italian/American fusion restaurant. I don't see how they can be both, but I guess time will tell. Summer months are definitely tough on restaurants; hopefully things will pick up again in the fall/winter.
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