Delicatessen, Chef Doron Wong
54 Prince Street (at Lafayette) in SoHo
New Yorkers finally took the next step from flirting with comfort food, but because it is New York, restaurant patrons demand a twist. Not content with the plethora of predictable, non-chic diners to satisfy their mac and cheese cravings, New Yorkers look to restaurateurs to create space that is cool and menus that hawk food designed to make them feel better about their pedestrian tastes and to satisfy their alcohol-soaked cravings. They need fat, fat, fat, but preferably in the form of a fancy egg roll or a kooky fritter.
Enter Mark Thomas Amadei and Andrew Glassberg of “Cafeteria” fame with Chef Doron Wong (formerly Hotel Executive Chef at Gramercy Park Hotel) in tow. Sensing a need at the crossroads of Nolita and SoHo and eager to cash in on the trifecta of “hungries” (the club crowd, the uber-hip, and tourists), Amadei and Glassberg created “Delicatessen.”
The first time I visited this new restaurant I sat outside. It was a glorious fall day and we were next to two very handsome, chiseled-jawed, Armani-clad dudes. Lucky me. The passers-by were wonderful sport – model-types tethered to small dogs, business folks, Europeans, shoppers, and overweight tourists (clearly American). After a long wait (were we invisible?), the waitress presented a menu that at first blush appeared internationally schizophrenic: German Potato Salad, Panzanella Salad, Pork Schnitzel, Asian Vegetable Salad, Romanian Skirt Steak, Bangers and Mash, Prince Edward Island Mussels, Halibut Tacos. Having been advised to try the cheeseburger egg rolls, we were intrigued; hamburger and melted American cheese were stuffed into egg roll wrappers and deep fat fried. We also tried the Reuben fritters (complete with pastrami and sauerkraut), along with the watercress and arugula salad. The fare all around was predictable in taste, even if the assembly was unique. Deep fat fried food simply tastes like deep fat fried food.
Our next visit was for dinner and we invited a guest from out of town. Although we did not have reservations, the hostess seemed thrilled to accommodate us. She invited us to sit at the bar and have a drink, and then quickly found a lovely, indoor table for us. Having a better chance to see the interior, I was instantly reminded of Cafeteria’s colorless and stainless steel décor. The windowed wall resembles a garage door, louvered to open to the street and meant to include those sitting on the outside. A very clean and sparse setting.
Our waitress was incredibly welcoming, cheerful, and attentive — a huge departure from our first visit. My husband was watching his waist and ordered the Caesar salad, very standard, but he very much enjoyed it. Our guest was starving and gobbled down the Romanian skirt steak — cooked perfectly and presented with watercress and beet salad sidling Vidalia onion rings on a broad platter. I had a hankering for fried chicken, which was very crisply fried but tender and moist on the inside, and served in a metal bucket. The jalapeño biscuit was delicious – so much so that I passed up the opportunity to eat the other two pieces of chicken in favor of ordering another biscuit but desisted because the waitress pointed out that an extra biscuit would cost $3.00. I have enough problems paying three bucks for coffee, there’s no way I’m shelling it out for flour moistened with milk and a few jalapeños. Good grief! I also passed on eating the dry, uninteresting coleslaw. I save my calories for yummy stuff.
Overall, Delicatessen is a beautiful space for beautiful people or wanna-bes. I think we would all appreciate it much more following a good drunk when the body screams for fried chicken, paprika onion rings, burgers or anything that tandems grease.
by Jane Hruska