Monday, March 30, 2009

[NYC '09: Dinner, day 5] The Stanton Social: Only for the PYT

(A promising opener: Amuse Bouche)

To celebrate our final night in Manhattan, we made a reservation at The Stanton Social for dinner. This place was exactly as I had expected – loud, dark, young and pretty. To be honest, places like this make me nervous. But oh well, I like looking at pretty things and eating good food and, most importantly, I was with good company.

Stanton Social operates on a shared small plates/tapas dining style. Small plates have been all the rage in the last couple of years and it still seems to be going strong. The waitress (who reminded me of a pre-thievery Winona Ryder) recommended about 2-3 plates per person but, being that we were still stuffed from a heavy brunch, we decided to just start out with 5 plates first.

An amuse bouche of ricotta and tomatoes on toasted bread was brought to our table. The flavors and textures complimented each other perfectly – the salt-seasoned tomatoes cut through the mildness of the ricotta and the smooth creamy cheese played off the crunchiness of the bread. It was definitely a promising opener.

(Can't-taste-the-tuna tuna tartare rolls)

Next up were the nori spiced tuna tartare rolls ($12). This was something I suggested and, sad to say, I was pretty disappointed. I couldn’t taste the tuna at all – the fish was completely overpowered by the spices and the sauce. Also, with the mouthnumbing effect of the sauce, it was difficult to tell how fresh the tuna was but it was definitely not sushi grade. Oh well, I guess this dish just confirmed for me that I will never like tuna tartare no matter how hard I try.

(Good texture: Mushroom Risotto Cakes)

The second dish was the wild mushroom risotto cakes with parmagiano and mushroom chips ($12). I liked the texture – it was dense and interestingly moist and grainy but not coarse. But it was just a little too sour for my personal taste. Not bad but nothing special either. This was getting dangerous – Stanton Social was batting a zero so far in the food zone. So Thank God that the next dish to come up was the butternut squash and sweet potato ravioli ($14). This was hands down the best dish of the night. It was lightly doused in a vanilla brown butter sauce and sprinkled with candied pecans – a perfect blend of sugariness with a slight tinge of saltiness to really bring out the sweet creaminess of the filling. It tasted almost like a sweet potato pie! Great stuff. I wish they would turn that dish into a full sized entrĂ©e – I would DEFINITELY order that.

(If only all the dishes tasted like this: Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Ravioli)

Sad to say though, it was all a downhill slope from there on. The Rhode Island style lobster roll ($9/individual portion) was uninspired. I’ll give it credit though for the lobster meat – I’m not a big lobster fan but I do recognize the beauty of a well prepared fresh lobster. The lobster meat in the roll was definitely fresh and had a good bouncy texture. But that aside, it was nothing special. The bun was probably the best part – airy and soft but a little too much on the greasy side. Which actually is my main criticism of the food at Stanton Social – it’s just too greasy in taste. The chips that came with the lobster roll were flat-out gross and tasted like pure oil. Ech.

(Only OK: Lobster Roll)

The last dish of the night was the apparent biggie – the Stanton Social beef Wellington ($21). This dish as a concept was already a little too much for my personal taste – grilled filet mignon with foie gras mousse and mushroom duxelles wrapped in puff pastry. I liked all these components individually but I had a feeling that tossing all these things together could “crudify” them. It was almost like turning a Carolina Herrera dress into an 80s prom gown. But we were at Stanton Social and this was one of the must-try dishes so I put my ambivalence aside. Again, on the level of purely personal taste, I wasn’t feeling the Worcestershire based sauce (I never do) which is also why I didn’t like the pastry since I soaked up all the flavors of the sauce. The beef was cooked really well though (medium rare) but I was still riding on the memory of the wagyu skirt steak at WD-50 and that steak just set the bar way up there. But my biggest qualm with the dish was with the foie gras which seemed to be completely absent from the dish. I’m not a “I HAVE to order foie gras if its on the menu” person but if I DO order it, I expect it to…well…be there. I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t taste it and trust me, I was REALLY concentrating on my bite. I was rolling the piece in my mouth for a full minute and still, no dice.

(Not worth the calories: Beef Wellington)

Although the food is disappointing, the atmosphere is really great. It’s great for drinks and catching up over a light meal and it’s a place to go to if you’re into the see-and-be-seen loud eateries. The kind of place to meet up but not the kind of place to carry out a deep conversation (good luck battling the noise level). And it’s definitely not a place which gets five stars for its food. Personally, it’s not my kinda place…I’m too old and grouchy for hip places like this. I’ll stick to places like Barbarini Alimentari and I’ll leave Stanton Social to all those Pretty Young Things.

FOOD: 2.5/5

99 Stanton St.
New York, NY 10002
(212) 995-0099

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