27 January 2009

Chow Bar, 230 W 4th St. (at W.10th St.)

Because Dave never wanted to go to any Asian-fusion restaurants, and Dad and I were always too busy imbibing in ridiculous amounts of Belgian brewskis at the Castle to go, I finally found the perfect opportunity to hit this little gem in West Village - with Adrian last Saturday.

He took care of the reservations, and after doing the subway tour of the world (no no no, thank YOU, MTA), we stroll up on a blustery, frigid, January night at 7pm and are quickly seated. Neither of us had eaten that much that day (Adrian - a few cookies and a carrot, me - a piece of bread with one slice of turkey and one slice of munster cheese), we quickly decided on two appetizers and a bottle of the Moon Princess sake. (Moon Princess? What the hell does that mean? Our waiter didn't know either, which ended up being a theme of the night.)

Before I kick into the appetizers, let me take a quick moment to tell you about the ambiance of Chow Bar. In two words: mad chill. The vibe was absolutely perfect for the night - chill electronic vibes (one of my favorite parts of this experience, actually), Asian-type decorations on the wall, nearly non-existent lighting save for the candles on the table. Perfecto.

So, the appetizers. We kicked off the night with the spicy tuna tartare, which was infused with wasabi, had crispy wonton chips & was drizzled with ponzu sauce, and a bowl of edamame. The edamame could have been better (see: saltier; read my review on Decibel), but the spicy tuna tartare was exactly what we needed. 41 Greenwich's tuna tartare didn't even come close to comparing- the wasabi was absolutely incredible; just the perfect amount of spicy just when you needed it. The chips were great, the ponzu sauce was a taste straight from Japan (I brought back a small bottle of ponzu sauce with me; I find that it's extremely hard to find here, but it could be primarily because I don't know Japanese). Absolutely incredible. I might have actually made Adrian eat most of the edamame so that I could take all most of the tartare. Don't hate on my jack moves.

Just as we had finished our appetizers, our mains came out as the dining room started to fill up a bit more. With the intent of sharing, Adrian got the lemongrass grilled chicken with tamarind glaze, cucumber salad and coconut rice, and I got the roast pork sandwich with kimchee, cilantro, plum sauce and matchstick fries.

The Good: The roast pork sandwich. For some reason, when I read the menu, I thought it said pulled pork, but after I had taken the first bite, I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I was enthralled! The fusion of the pork marinated in sweet plum bbq sauce, sour chunks of kimchee, cilantro (holy shit did you just say cilantro?!) was simply a match made in heaven. I'm not going to lie, the cilantro truly made the sandwich and bonded all of the flavors together in each heavenly bite. The matchstick fries were superb - imagine, in a perfect world, when every fry in your McDonald's container are all crispy and that nice medium brown. Imagine, a plate full of those with this heavenly sandwich. Imagine that they're dusted with sesame seeds. Imagine a world that could not get much better except it just did with some wasabi infused mustard on the side. Now, I'm not going to spoil your imagining by telling you about the little pile of "cole slaw" off to the side with some cabbage and raw onion that was highly mediocre, but that was just about the only place where the dish fell short, and this might have been purely personal preference (Adrian really liked it).

The Bad: The lemongrass chicken. I felt this dish was bland, boring, underwhelming, unexciting and tasteless much like our service that night was. The chicken was char-grilled to the point where you could almost taste the charcoal, and there was no lemongrass flavor, just a little tasteless heat that hit you a few seconds into your bite. If I wanted tasteless heat, I could have eaten a habenero. There was also a pile of equally as boring slaw underneath the chicken. Blah. Oh wait, the advertised cucumber salad? Don't get too excited - it was only 3 small slices of cucumber on top of the pile of rice. Last time I checked, there's more to a cucumber salad (let alone salad in general) than three slices of cucumber. Just about the only redeeming part of this dish was the coconut rice, which you can actually order as a side (and is probably what we should have done with a different main). The menu claims it had sesame seeds and scallion in it, but I didn't see any and frankly, I'm not complaining. I feel like the tactic to execution of this amazing, perfectly sticky rice was to use coconut milk instead of water. So absolutely tasty, I made a note to try this in my flatmate's rice cooker one of these days.

The Ugly: Our dessert of crispy chocolate wontons with mint ice cream. And by ugly, I mean the only thing that could and/or would be ugly would be me after I ate them every day for the rest of my life because it was just that damn good.

Chow Bar gets 4 forks - only because they fell short on the lemongrass chicken and our highly unknowledgable server who couldn't make a recommendation to me about anything (sake, appetizer, main, dessert) if his life depended on it.

1 comment:

geowingo said...

the good, the bad and the ugly...perhaps a good western movie with that title...interesting touch for a eat place from the east...but very well done, entertaining and just the right bit of bite!!!! love, dad

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