Real estate in Manhattan is expensive. For the same price that I am paying for my 10″ by 12″ room in Midtown, my parents is able to rent a 2 storey, 3 bedroom semi-detached in Singapore. Graffiti, a restaurant about as narrow as my room tries to make the best of the situation with tall bar tables that gives an illusion of space. Too many bar stools are cramped around the tables such that a table for 6 now sits 10. An ancient looking scale doubles as a bag holder, perfect for a demure clutch but unfortunately petite for my sized-for-New York bag. Walking through the kitchen to the teeny tiny bathroom, I saw no stoves, but a short kitchen counter where the chef and assistant created their dishes. 

Just as the place was small, so were the appetizer sized dishes. The individual plates are priced $7, 12 and 15 and made for sharing. But when sharing with 4 others, it meant one bite of each dish, which for the neighborhood and casual service, was pretty pricey.  

Anchovy Seaweed Tamarind Pizza

Of the dishes we shared, I found the anchovy, tamarind, seaweed pizza most memorable. I could not taste the anchovy, but enjoyed the sweet/sour contrast of the Japanese seaweed and tamarind on the flaky pastry base, more croissant than pizza-like. The mango paneer was also spicy, just a little milky and flavorful and the pita strips served with it fluffy and warm. If only there were more. I too enjoyed the buttery foie gras mousse smeared on brioche toasts, but thought that the raspberry jam on it could be less sweet and more tart for a better contrast. Less successful dishes included the unmemorable sauteed prawns with a side of tough idli and the steamed buns stuffed with pork belly, because its been so overused in trendy restaurants, and because as a Chinese, I simply cannot pay $5 for a piece of kong-ba bao. The plate of dumplings in chili oil is also as tasty as boiled frozen dumplings that sell for $5 per pack in Chinatown, but much more expensive.

Compared to the small plates, the uniform $25 price tag for the bottles of wine seemed like a pretty good deal. Desserts were also supposed to be good, as expected from a trained pastry chef. Unfortunately, we did not try either to corroborate these claims. With the absence of wine and dessert, dinner was rather unmemorable save for the extremely tight quarters and constant knocking of elbows between my sister and I. In parting, while I might return for Graffiti for drinks and dessert some other time, I’ll look for dinner elsewhere.

 Graffiti

224 E10th St (Bet 1st & 2nd Ave)

www.graffitinyc.com