D. and I had dinner at Phillip Tang’s newish place, East By Northeast on Saturday night, and it was superb. Another small place, though, so timing is everything (I'd say strive for 6:00 if you don't want to wait) – although the crowd waiting to be seated isn’t as big as it is at Coppa. But you know what? It should be.
This is another small plates concept – and I’ll go on record here as saying I’m thrilled that this concept is taking off. One, the portion sizes at some places are monster – just too much food for one person to handle, and two, I love trying lots of different things on a menu. Whether it’s my first time at a restaurant or my twenty-first, I dig variety.
Tang creates Chinese-influenced plates using locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. And it works. These are traditional Chinese recipes prepared with a fresh perspective. The flavors are clean and the combinations original – pork and fennel dumplings with tender wrappers were topped with a tangy herby vinaigrette and placed atop a puree of onion and fennel that made me want to lick the plate. Hand-rolled rice noodles, chicken and shitake mushrooms were tossed with house made XO sauce and finished with what Tang refers to as “fried crack” – finely cut garlic (maybe grated?) which is baked to sweeten it first, then fried so that it becomes crunchy and, well, like something you can’t stop eating. Tang’s sweet potato chips were cruchy, a little spicy, a little saucy, and not at all greasy. And his "baobao" sticky rice was amazing – tender rice filled with 8 (an auspicious number in China) different little bits of tasty things. The scallion pancake here is thicker than you’re probably used to – but wonderfully crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside. It comes accompanied by a sauce that was faintly mustardy but which still had the tang of soy. The sautéed kale came along with spiced rutabaga relish, lemon and garlic and was tender and very tasty.
East By Northeast has a funky selection beers, (really, how can you resist a name like “Butternuts Porkslap Ale?” Especially when the can features two smiling swine bumping bellies!?) a few cocktails and wines to choose from, and some delicious house made sodas. I had the lime/cilantro soda and it was outstanding – sweet and herby and refreshing. It’d be perfect on a hot summer day.
The service was awesome – the people who work with Tang believe in the product, they’re friendly, unassuming, and helpful. They hustle. The place was hopping and yet we never felt like we were waiting for a need to be met. This is a place we’ll come back to, again and again – because the menu changes often, there’ll always be some tasty surprise awaiting us. We’re sure of it.