Friday, October 01, 2010

Vandaag Review

Vandaag is muscling its way into the European offerings of the East Village. It has been open for only a couple of months, and though The New York Times has already dropped two stars on it, my take is that the place needs a little more time to work on its promising menu and to refine its spotty service.

The restaurant employs the tactic often associated with fancier restaurants of starting with an amuse bouche and ending with a small end-of-the-meal sweet bite. But in a very European manner, there is no complimentary bread to start; you can pay $6 for it if you covet your carbs. Several different servers took their turns stopping at our table, confusing themselves in the process over what had or hadn't already been taken care of.


B-Side Sling (left): Bols Genever, Roobis infused Vermouth, lemon, maraschino & bitters
Pack Mule: Strawberry Peppercorn Akvavit (this had a strong peppery punch), ginger, Pimms, lemon & Campari

Chinaski: Akvavit, Cynar, lemon & apricot syrup with sparkling Gruner & celery twist

Amuse Bouche: Sepia

Smoked pickled sausages: These were too much like hot dogs for my liking and the pickled juice sitting in the bottom quarter of the jar was a turnoff.

Little neck clams with aquavit, vanilla, allepo, and parsnip frites: The clams, entwined with the parsnip fries, were briny and plentiful enough to fill up the bowl. But the clams needed something to cut the saltiness and act as a better background canvas —maybe a bit of spaghetti or some toast.

Pork chop with toasted barley, black mission fig and mead. The juicy chop, served in three pieces, was a thick cut, which can diffuse the flavors that coat just the exterior. Though I like barley, I don't recall having tasted it toasted and here it was intensely grainy.

Hete bliksem "Hot Lightning": A cast-iron skillet side of crisp fingerlings, bacon, apple and stroop syrup was the one thing I didn't have any criticisms of. The chunky pieces of bacon covered in the syrup were slightly sweet and combined with potatoes made this taste like breakfast food.

The lambic apple crumble wasn't sweet enough to satisfy me. The apples were a bit watery, as there wasn't much pastry, just the crumble on top and a piece of a waffle cone supporting the ice cream scoop.

The final bites were cherry jellies. Jellies are my least favorite of the petit four varieties and these were quite sour.

While I didn't think Vandaag outstanding, the space was comfortable and there was a good variety of ingredients on the menu that make it more unique than many others. As well, there are other things on the menu that I would return to try, especially the roast hen for two. Those things combined are enough that I'll probably give it another chance.

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