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Mar 11, 2009 12:38 PM

Desnuda – Enough Food For A Meal?

Two of us are going to Desnuda tonight in the East Village for dinner. The place has not been covered much (or at all) here on Chowhound but Yelp Reviews seem to indicate that although (or because) they serve Ceviche the portions are small and one should not come hear expecting a meal.

We are planning to go to Graffiti to get some light food before but I am wondering if any folks have been and can

1) Advise any dishes one should get (I read the Szechuan Peppercorn Oysters are good).

2) How big are portions?

And if you want to be super helpful......

3) Should we expect a wait on a Wedn night at a 9pm?

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  1. Hey so thanks a lot Chowhounders (said with a sneer).

    So nobody answered my questions yesterday. The following is what happened. Needless to say things did not go well. We left hungry. In fact we left without receiving any food.

    We came to the restaurant at 9:45pm. I figured if we got there on the later side then there were better odds that we would find a seat. We were wrong. The place is pretty. It is basically one very long bar in a narrow space which is decorated in a kind of colonial turn of the century style with ceiling fans and dark wood. The people at the place were not so East Village though and seemed to be bankers – this fits with the price point for food and drinks which is rather high (think 15-20 dollars for a plate of ceviche).

    There were no seats available and one of the two people who worked at the restaurant did not know when a seat would open (which in fairness he was correct about – since during the twenty minutes we were there nobody moved). In fact, people seemed to be guarding their seats with a look of fear and depravity. “My precious! My precious seat!”

    We sat on the bench by the doorway (this was kind of like the bad kids bench) and asked the bar tender who was on the other side of the bar and five feet away if we could order some food. The restaurant has a selection of around 10 Ceviches and 3 kinds of Oysters.

    “We are out of food” The bearded bar tender intoned.

    Now mind you it was 9:45pm the ceviche bar is open until 2am. They supposedly serve food until that time. They have 10 types of ceviches. 3 kinds of oysters. But they were out.

    “Do you have oysters at least? Really I just want to try something.” I pleaded.

    “Sorry we are all out of everything.” The bearded one said.

    “Really?” I didn’t believe him.

    “Yeah, we strive for fresh ingredients so we ran out early.”

    Now I understand there are some places which are first come first serve and that is their thing. Some pizza places are like that and there is the BBQ place which was profiled a couple months ago in the New Yorker. But this is not that kind of place it bills itself as a legitimate place to eat. It is not.

    And most of what they serve could easily last a day in the fridge.

    We sat back and ordered a glass of wine and tried to sit on our wooden bench. My bench mate and friend wanted to leave. I said we were here and maybe we could find food.

    “How are you going to get food?”

    “Well some people at the bar still have food we can ask them if we can try some and maybe explain our situation. We came. We should just ask.”

    “You can’t just ask strangers for food at a restaurant.” My friend said.

    “We aren’t at such a place. We are in a bad place.”

    So I leaned toward a group of four people who were sitting at the bar who had some tuna and pineapple ceviche which they had ordered a while back and were currently eating. I explained we had come all the way here and that I was interested in trying some food and all I needed was a small bite. The group was very kind and game me a small piece. It was fine. Tasted like tuna pinapple and lime juice. I could have made this at home.

    We paid for our drinks. The bar tender said that if we got there at around seven they usually had food then.

    We thanked the kindly strangers for the taste of ceviche and left.

    Some Highlights:
    The bathroom door doesn’t have a lock on it. So Ladies! Yeah Ladies! Watch out! Unless you want to shout!

    The place appears to be run by a bunch of jackasses (or the kind of Chefs only Andrea Strong would love).

    In conclusion, these people have no business running a restaurant/bar/antique shop/used car dealership/poetry store/ponzi scheme.

    This is a perfect place to take an anorexic date. No worrying about food or forcing your date to eat!

    2 Replies
    1. re: hkhungry

      Thank you so much for this post. While i'm sorry you were unable to get any insight before you went, I was planning on going here tomorrow night and now know what to expect. Actually i think i may just skip it all together now because i was a little worried about the small and expensive portions in the first place, and with the rest of the shenanigans you mentioned i'm definitely turned off now.

      Again, thank you for doing your chowhound duty.

      1. re: hkhungry

        i/m not sure why the snark? perhaps no one who had been there saw your post. perhaps you shouldn't blame chowhounders for your poor meal.

        just sayin.....

        now that said - maybe there was a problem with that day's delivery? maybe they had twice as many customers as usual? maybe they had a fridge go bad?

        do you think they liked turning you away instead of getting your money?
        i understand your frustration, but i think your comments are overly harsh.

        personally i applaud a place that wont serve me food at less than optimal conditions, like day old, overly marinated, mushy cerviche - which is what happens when it sits overnight, as you suggest they ought do.

      2. I don't know why you expect a same-day answer to your post. If I had seen it I would have replied, but I'm not monitoring Chowhound 24-7 in the hopes that I can help out hkhungry.

        For what it's worth, the East Village has changed a lot, and the people that were in the place when I went could just as easily have come from there as anywhere else.

        I would give the place a qualified rave. While a bit expensive, a few of the things we tried were excellent. The one miss was pretty bad, where the flavoring overshadowed the fish to a huge degree.

        When you sit down they give you this really addictive popcorn with truffle oil, and you can order a glass of wine while you decide what to order. The owners are friendly and passionate and it's a great way to spend a few hours, even if you don't eat much.

        If you order several glasses of wine each, like we did, and try to order enough to fill up, your bill will be quite high, I think ours was around $180 w/ tip. So I recommend going just for wine and one or two small dishes, either before or after eating elsewhere.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Peter Cuce

          I wanted to take a quick moment to respond to some of the comments to my post. I appreciate all the feedback and I am glad to hear that some folks have had a positive experience at Desnuda.

          First, I really was not bothered that nobody had responded to my post asking some questions about Desnuda. It was sent late in the day and I was hoping but not hopeful for some advice. Chowhound is awesome. I meant it ironically.

          Second, I do not know if the lack of food the night I was there was related to a failed delivery. However, this reason was not given and the lack of food seemed to be reflective of what happens most evenings based on the tone/intonation of the bartender/cook. I was however assured that if one came earlier (at seven) on most nights there would be food. I was though struck by the fact that they had no food available. No ceviches No oysters. If one is running a ceviche bar a big priority is to have fish to serve. In New York they are plentiful purveyors who can fit this need. Lacking food might be understandable in a place which is a smaller market. That really isn’t the case in Manhattan. It really is bizarre to be out of every kind of food.

          Third, before I made my posting I checked a number of other sites (yelp, zagats, city search) to see if other people had had similar experiences. A number of people mentioned that they had trouble getting food and had to leave because of this failure. A number of people said the staff was fun and the place was cute (it is) but that at 18 dollars for some marinated fish and 10$+ for a glass of wine the service needs to be better.

          Thank you all for the comments and feedback I hope others have a more positive experience.