Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Japanese Home Style

Family Recipe, an LES project spearheaded by Chef Akiko Thurnauer, may be one of the best small plates joints to pop up in Manhattan. Small plates restaurants normally force me to a.) overorder and b.) overspend, but Family Recipe required no such sacrifice. We were a table of four and ate a wide cross section of the menu without overindulging. And all this for sixty dollars a person, alcohol included.

I will overlook the somewhat negligent service for now, given the fact that the one working waitress (I get it; it's a Monday night) spoke parsed English and struggled to keep her tables cleared and fed. In fact, an oversight on her part bought us a free bottle of Valpolicella, sent out gratis for our troubles. Anyway, the fun, tasty food made up for lapses in service. Chicken wings were salty and crispy and came with tiny spears of celery and a creamy pink sauce. Battered and fried okra and shisito peppers with salt and lime provided ballast without too much bulk. Delicate lobster dumplings came with cracked peanuts and soy sauce and a swipe of mustard and pork buns, reminiscent of the Chang variety, approached perfection with a side bowl of Kewpie mayonnaise.

Then came pan fried shrimp over corn and rice cakes in curry, somewhere between the texture of risotto and a rice krispy treat. Pullman toast on the side of a plate of Prince Edward Island mussels with nori and a rich, buttery sauce sopped up whatever was left over. Pork ribs were meaty, sticky, salty, sweet. And kobe burgers came with a tiny bowl of potato chips. Everywhere, competing textures helped the meal to its acme. Even dessert--a coconut rice pudding with a bruleed sugar crust--was made more complete with textural contrast. I don't know much about Chef Akiko's family heritage of recipes, but the food she puts forth, right down to a carafe of sake sangria with watermelon and strawberries, is soul-satisfying.

Family Recipe
231 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002

No comments: