My college roommate was visiting last week and I found it extremely fitting to bring her to P*ONG for dinner. She was looking for something different, she enjoys dessert as much as I do, and most importantly, Peiyun also shares the same last name as the chef and in abbreviation can be called p-ong as well.

foie gras with chocolateI waited for P outside the somewhat empty restaurant, a little disconcerting at 8 on a Thursday night, and briefly considering making alternate plans at Bar Blanc. But once we got seated in the modern and slick room with an open kitchen and enjoyed some tasty girly cocktails (P’s had prosecco, dehydrated rose petals and gold dust), we settled in and got to the main business of ordering.

The chef made his name as a master patissier in the Jean Georges empire, so it was not surprising that the sweet/ semi-sweet dishes fared better. Thin chocolate and hazelnut tuile sandwiched 2 discs of foie gras terrine, the sweetness of the chocolate playing up the unctuousness of the foie. A grandiose smear of more chocolate and a dollop of pink pepper jam dressed up the rather large and spare plate. Very yummy but I wished there were some toast points to spread that foie on. And in general some bread to feed patrons while they peruse the menu would be nice.

rhubarb panna cottaThe other dish that worked very nicely was dessert, a light, almost milky rhubarb panna cotta that celebrated the tartness of the seasonal vegetable. Bay leaf is crushed into powder and sprinkled on the custard, providing a refreshing mouthfeel. A wafer of dehydrated milk candy tasted like the white rabbit candy of yore and was sticky fun. The accompaniment of a mini strawberry cupcake though was redundant.

The savory courses were adequately prepared, but at a high enough price point to encourage me to try out other places first before returning. The shrimp ceviche was the greatest disappointment. It had tongue-tingly explosive flavors with thai chili, icy mango sorbet and bright cilantro, but was unfortunately marred by the shrimp, which were overcooked and rubbery. I could not taste the chocolate within the duck pot pie for the life of me, but must concede that the dish was well prepared, and the other flavors advertised, that of plummy pinot noir and tart-sweet cherries were amply presented. The beef short rib was good, very tender with a deep, pungent sauce and roasted root vegetables. Not too appropriate for the weather now, but worth a try.

Peiyun loves food, and she also picked up a recent hobby of picture taking, so throughout the meal, we were two stereotypical Asian women furiously taking photos of the plates. It was quite an amusing sight. I’m so happy I got to reconnect with her after almost 2 years, to fill each other in on our lives and bask in the commonality we still shared. While there were some hits and misses in terms of food, our dinner was definitely an enjoyable one.

P*ONG

150 W 10th St (at Waverly Place)

http://p-ong.com

 

 

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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