Cuisine: American Nouveau, Asian Fusion, Global Eclectic
Neighborhood: Midtown East
Price: Appetizers under $15, Entrées $15-$30
Address: 247 East 50th, NY, NY 10022
Hours: Kitchen Daily: 5pm-12am Bar Daily: 5pm-2am
In the spirit of adventurous eating and meeting new people, Jen, Herman and I signed up for a dinner at Respite through grubwithus.com. The guys who started the site basically realized that it was impossible to meet quality people at bars in a big city and most people don’t have the balls to just meet strangers at classy establishments. So they brainstormed a solution and thus grubwithus was born. You can sign up for dinners on the website and you eat with people who clearly have similar interests to you: good food and good company. The prices for dinners are very reasonable and the venues seem to be high quality. I had not heard of Respite prior to this dinner, but a quick glance at Yelp told me that I was in for a treat. I would highly recommend this site to anyone who wants to try more New York restaurants and meet new people. If you are in the mood to meet new people, feel slightly more adventurous and do not mind a trek to Brooklyn, try a dinner at apt4. Your dinner will be dreamed up the day of and will feature fresh local ingredients from Union Square’s Green Market in a cozy setting of a quintessential Brooklyn brownstone.
Now onto Respite itself. I rarely venture to Midtown East, so I was pleasantly surprised by the creativity of the menu and the friendly service that I think are both are rare finds Midtown restaurants which cater more to tourists, biz dinners and high turnover, not wining and dining.
The restaurant itself is warmly lit, spacious with a big chalkboard boasting the delicious cocktails du jour. There are small tables for dates and a large circular table fit for a party. We had a group of 8 at a long table, and it was a bit tough to socialize especially since we were all strangers, but we made it work. The set menu we had was filling and all the dishes were very different. It seems that some of the flavors are a bit scattered and sometimes overly fusioned. Maybe I just prefer simplicity more often than not, so my palate didn’t appreciate the complexity, I don’t know. I like oysters on their own, but our appetizer was a bit overdone. My favorite dish was probably the mixed salad because of the freshness of the ingredients and the tangy vinaigrette. So here is all that we tasted.
Scallop Ceviche – ginger papaya purée, macadamia nuts
I love raw scallops and I think they are a rather rare find on crudo menus. This little bite was yummy. My favorite though is still at L’Artusi — these magical bits of scallop just melt in your mouth.
Chilled Oysters – basil caviar, mango sorbet
I prefer larger, meatier oysters. This was good, but I think the sorbet and basil stole the spotlight instead of enhancing the flavors of the oyster like a solid mignonette would. Also all the herb and spice accoutrements just seem like a waste.
Spring Pea Soup – Robiola tortelli, cippolini wasabi cream
I haven’t had a lot of pea soups and liked Respite’s take on it. Great idea adding wasabi cream, it added a nice kick.
Garden Salad – seasonal greens, pearlini, sweet shallot balsamic
Oh man I loved this salad. I think I got three extra helpings. Everything was fresh and the crispy lotus roots were an awesome touch to the taste buds as well as aesthetically.
These were not part of the original set menu, the chef brought them out as a courtesy, which we appreciated.
Chicken Roulade – ginger-spaghetti squash, pickled kohlrabi, maple
I typically don’t order chicken at restaurants, but we wanted to try one of everything and chicken appealed to me more than breaded skate and beef buns. Since chicken itself is pretty bland, I liked the accoutrements and the flavors they added.
Sesame Ginger Beef Buns – purple kimchi, daikon-cure slaw
Jen liked the buns, but they were not her favorite. I think our hearts lie with the pork buns at the Momofuku establishments.
Skate Wing Schnitzel – sweet potato mash, pumpkin seed-kimchi butter
Herman didn’t love it, but found it decent. I myself am not big on breading meats and fish. I prefer it when the flavors can hold their own sans breading.
Coconut-Mascarpone Panna Cotta – champagne poached Asian pears, persimmon, saffron-lemongrass broth
I was pretty full by the time the dessert came, but this panna cotta was light enough and not too sweet.