Passion Points: Food/Wine
The fine line between up-and-coming areas and totally-arrived hot spots runs even finer in New York City, where neighborhoods seem to transform from grit to glamour seemingly overnight. It happened on the Lower East Side, now already deemed “over” by locals, as well as in the Meatpacking District—thanks in part to unstoppable Sex & the City hype—which looks more and more like a high-end shopping mall (though you can still find great independent boutiques, like Adam). Next on the radar: the Bowery, which has already seen the opening of a chic hotel (Bowery Hotel), a high-profile museum (New Museum) and a rash of lounges and bars in the last year. Double Crown, an impressive restaurant by the team behind Public in Nolita, is the most recent Bowery debut and a recent visit did not disappoint—it’s a cool but comfortable new spot to soak in the buzzy neighborhood vibe.
Double Crown was created and is owned by Avroko, arguably the most exciting design firm working in New York these days (they also masterminded such hip downtown spots as Stanton Social restaurant, the Kid Robot boutique and Public). As with previous projects, Double Crown manages to infuse a raw, industrial aesthetic with whimsical decor touches that add character and a lot of charm to the space. The sleek stone floor and exposed pipes and brick walls are off-set by brightly lit religious statues, carved wooden walls and colorful textures and materials throughout. There are several dining areas—Double Crown can seat 100, so it’s not the place for an intimate, quiet dinner—including a slender, white-paneled room in the back and a more gregarious bar area surrounded by tables and round banquet nooks up front.
The kitchen is overseen by Brad Farmerie, also of Public, and the menu he created for the restaurant is described as “British-Indo-Asian,” an ambitious if not entirely successful fusion (yet). Unless you know that the culinary inspiration comes from the British presence in south Asia and the Far East during the 19th-century, some dishes combinations can sound downright random; on the other hand, it takes some panache to offer Singapore laksa and bangers and mash on the same menu. Some of the dishes are already spot-on, including flavorful pickled watermelon rind and duck steam buns, as well as a braised pork belly served with a black bean dressing, and a wonderful side of ginger cabbage spiced with red chili. Others, as is the case in most new restaurants, are still in the process of being tweaked, but in the able hands of Farmerie, a talented chef unafraid of experimenting until he gets it right, the kinks will surely get worked out in the coming weeks.
Overall, the mood at Double Crown is intoxicating, with soft lighting, a hip soundtrack and the requisite gorgeous clientele; one suspects the restaurant will become one of the downtown places to settle in over a glass of wine, some haute bar snacks and exceptional people watching. Come early: on a recent Friday, the place filled up quickly (right around 7:30 p.m.), though diners waiting for a table can do so at Madame Geneva, the chill lounge adjacent to Double Crown. For now, this is the big news of the Bowery, but it won’t be alone for long: there are serious rumors of Daniel Boulud and Keith McNally (of Balthazar and Morandi fame) eying the area for future ventures. Time will tell if it’s going to be a case of “there goes the neighborhood” or “welcome to the neighborhood.” Open daily for dinner, Saturday and Sunday for brunch.
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