Little Wisco "Crawl"
I was thinking about hitting all the Little Wisco joints this Friday night. Is it doable without reservations? I don't mind starting late (10pm onwards). Is there a "strategy"? Maybe certain places are more accessible at certain hours, and so on.
I've been to Joseph Leonard so I don't necessarily have to go there. Also, if Chez Sardine open yet?
The plan came to fruition on Friday night as my SO and I braved the unrelenting rain and traversed the dark streets of West Village for our Little Wisco "crawl". There were ups and downs but the evening ended with a bang so overall it was a nice, memorable experience.
We thought we had hit a snag initially when we arrived at Perla and was quoted by the very friendly lady hostess a two-hour wait. Undeterred, we put our name down and shot straight for our second destination, the newly opened Chez Sardine, where Danielle with her iPad told us we were staring at a 60-minute stall. A bit flustered but nonetheless still game, I put down my phone number and turned the corner to pay Fedora a visit. It was there where we first got to sit down and have a taste of Gabriel Stulman's empire.
Fedora, about six steps below ground level, gives the impression that it's first and foremost a bar, and with a ceiling of about 8 feet and patrons sipping on their signature cocktails, it's a deafeningly loud one. No more than five minutes after we sat down my SO started complaining about getting a headache and losing a voice, and we resorted to whatsapping each other across the table. It was comedic. Equally comedic was that before we even placed our order Danielle called us back to inform us a table had opened up at Chez Sardine. Great, I said, but we just sat down next door. She thanked us for being loyal supporters and agreed to keep my name on the list.
We ordered two small plates: crispy sweetbreads with blue cheese and pickled celery and oyster and shiitake mushrooms with poached egg and brown butter. The sweetbreads tasted like a buffalo chicken sandwich, but without the chicken or the bun or the heat of buffalo sauce or the promised crispiness. Far from terrible, but not a particularly creative taste. The mushrooms compared favourably with an intense sauce carrying just the right amount of acidity, but at $14 I found the dish even more overpriced than the sweetbreads which were $16.
As we were flagging down our waitress for the check, Perla rang back about the table opening up. At this point we decided that, despite the proximity of Chez Sardine, it would be smarter to head back to Perla first, and so we did. The same gracious hostess was just finishing up setting our table when we arrived, and when told we had just come from Fedora, she mused that "I hear things aren't as crazy over there". Hah.
The environment was markedly more comfortable at Perla, and it didn't hurt we got a corner booth with leather seats to ourselves. Sticking with ordering light we went with the veal tongue antipasti and the garganelli with tripe, prosciutto, tomato, and chili. I expected the tongue to have more chew, but it rather had the texture of thinly sliced spam. The tonnato sauce was creamy and went quite well in combination of the turnips. The crispy capers did add to the dish so long as you didn't put more than two in your mouth at the same time. The garganelli was well cooked, but we had trouble spotting all the ingredients in the tomato sauce / ragu. There was definitely cured meat, but I would not have known tripe was in there (although I did taste a hint of offal...). SO and I concluded that both dishes were decent; I found the salting to be a little bit heavy-handed.
Walking out of Perla the rain had picked up substantially, but we were halfway there (or so we thought) and there was no stopping us. We made our way back to Chez Sardine, arriving at midnight, and by then Stulman, who was manning the bar when we came in the first time, along with most of the customers, had long gone. We quickly decided to bypass the curious foie gras grilled cheese (deemed too heavy) and opted for some sushi. I suggested the salmon head as well but neither of us were fans of bones, so we thought better of it.
Our order was for the pork and unagi hand roll, and two pieces of sushi: chopped scallops with quail egg and tobiko, and chopped raw beef with uni. The hand roll came first. For $9 I was hoping a full-size temaki, but instead got some two-inch bastardized version, not even wrapped into a cone. I realize tradition is not the name of the game here, but...anyway, I also don't see how some shredded pork belly and eel could warrant the price tag. Oh and I also received a massive stabbing from eel bones. Brilliant.
The two pieces of sushi were similarly overpriced, and after my SO "accidentally" took all the fun parts out of the chopped scallops piece with her first bite, she insisted that I ordered a second one just to try it. I did, begrudgingly so, and wolfed it down in one bite. I thought I could feel the tobiko burst...but I really couldn't taste anything. We got some complimentary custard soft-serve that tasted pretty much like sugar and went on our way. I think I should've gotten the damn foie gras grilled cheese instead.
Our last stop, at least, according to the original plan, was Jeffrey's Grocery. A very laid back joint with some retro decor. We sat down and promptly agreed on three Littlenecks, two mini crab claws, and four oysters (two each of two varieties whose names I have forgotten). One clam was double the size of another and one was served in a broken shell. The mini claws were $3.50 a bite. The oysters were okay; they tasted as advertised - one with some complexity and one salty and briny as all hell (which I quite liked, actually).
At this point the planned tour had completed, but we had a problem: I was still hungry. Three hours of eating and walking and eating and walking had not satiated my appetite. We had initially written off Jospeh Leonard because we had already been there for brunch, and although we loved the food we didn't feel the need to go back. I still had room in my stomach, though, and the place is conveniently right across the street from Jeffrey's (and still open). Oh why the hell not (it would've been a big mistake not to have gone, it turned out).
At 1:30 in the morning Joseph Leonard was only barely slowing down. The patrons were still having lively discussions, the bartender still charismatic, and the hostess/waitress still running the place by herself valiantly (although she would later drop her lip balm at our feet and then give us the wrong check twice - chalk it up to the hour and the dark). I knew I wanted to try the country fried chicken sandwich, but what else? I wondered aloud about the burger but was quickly shot down, and the pork hock doesn't seem like a good idea. Finally we settled on a side of brussels sprouts.
We waited for about 20 minutes before both plates arrived. The mere sight of the fried chicken had me salivating. I cut into it for a taste test, and the crispy skin gave way easily to the knife. A good sign in my book. And my first bite confirmed it - this could damn well be the best fried chicken I've ever had (disclaimer: I don't eat a lot of fried chicken). The meat was moist, the skin crunchy and melted into a well seasoned sweetness. I think I might have teared. Everything that came with the chicken was very good, but all I could remember was telling my SO telepathically to "stop eating my chicken" (just kidding). The brussels sprouts had some serious kick from the sriracha, so I kind of worked my fork around the sauce so as to avoid numbing my tongue which would prevent me from fully appreciating the chicken that she wouldn't stop eating. We asked for the dessert menu but what I really wanted was just some more of that bird.
At 2:30 we stepped out of Joseph Leonard, saved from an otherwise mediocre dining excursion. As we made our way home we did a loose ranking of the Little Wisco restaurants: Joseph Leonard was by far the best, Perla was solid, and we had little interest in returning to the other three. In fairness, we sampled very little at each establishment, and had I gone for the foie gras grilled cheese I might have formed a different opinion of Chez Sardine, but a crawl is a crawl.
Get that fried chicken! (Available at brunch, lunch, late night, but not on the dinner menu).
i didnt want to comment before your visits but i really dont see much in the stulman restaurants. they try to give the impression of being 'a little taste of the west village,' but the service is incompetent and overly friendly, the music they play is lame, the crowd tends to be unsophisticated, and most importantly, the food is just plain tepid.
joseph leonard probably has the best food of the bunch and i used to like jeffreys for lunch but its just not for me anymore.
I'd recommend Chez Sardine, if you aren't expecting anything amazing, but are in the mood for some sushi and some different mixes of tastes. Let's start with I didn't even take any pictures of the dishes, that would indicate non-amazingness. The sushi actually had fresh tasting fish. I was skeptical at first, as the sushi chefs aren't "real" sushi chefs. The hamachi had a nice sauce on it and was good. The special tuna roll with some mayo, roe, and crunchy potato sticks , seaweed outside, was not bad but too many potato sticks. A nice mix of crunch and softness. The chopped scallop with tobiko and a quail egg , had a problem in that unless you have a huge mouth, you first only get the quail egg and the tobiko then the scallop is left all alone on the bottom. The uni with beef tartare was very good. The uni, amazingly , was Hokkaido delicious uni. A very good dish. As far as the other posters comment about the hand rolls not being cones, Hand rolls are very often not shaped like a cone. Especially if it is just oshinko, or shiso and uni. So I did not mind the shape of the hand roll at all. You cannot deviate from the sushi menu. You can't get for example, uni sushi, you must get it mixed with beef., etc
The cod fritters weren't too good. They didn't have the right crusted outside and hardly any flavor. The "breakfast pancakes" fish tartare, trout roe and yogurt were delicious. The crispy chicken kimchi was OK but i had to add a lot of hot sauce to it, The larger pork belly dish got raves, and lastly the foie gras grilled cheese as weird as it sounds tasted great. The pickles that came with it was a good compliment. It could have used some coarse sea salt. The only complaint about the dish was it was a bit too greasy, but it did taste really good.
So overall, the place is a comfortable, cool place to eat. They have tables, bar and sushi bar to eat at. The place gets packed but we had no wait. By 8 30 PM there was a long line. The staff is very friendly. The food although not amazing, is good quality ingredients and creative. Some might describe the crowd as "hipster' type. I like the location, because it's easy to park on 7th Ave South. I's say check it out, it is a good neighborhood "go to" place.
fesiable to do in terms of distance, they are all by each other, but how much are you planning on eating at each place or is this more of a bar hop kind of thing? I would say start off with perla, and then the rest all have late night menus are small plates so that would be nice if you are planning to eat at all of them.