Sunday, September 28, 2008

Double Crown

Hot off the press! It is always a tough call deciding when to visit a new restaurant whose opening I have been anticipating. If you go too soon after it has opened, there is the risk that all of the kinks have not quite been sorted out - service tends to be spotty and the menu has not quite been perfected. However, if you wait too long and the restaurant immediately takes off, it may soon be impossible to get in the front door without calling a month in advance. Last week, I decided to take a gamble and check out Double Crown only one week after its official opening. It turns out that this was a great decision. The restaurant was already packed and I have a feeling this is just the beginning of Double Crown's popularity.

While the food is one of the highlights, the setting warrants nearly as much attention. Designed by AvroKo (the architects of Public), Double Crown's interior is very cool. The communal tables in the front room make a great spot for a group outing. In contrast, there were also a great number of people enjoying their meal at the larger wooden bar - ideal for a two person outing. If you continue through the more intimate back room, you enter into Madam Geneva, an even cozier bar providing a great option for a drink before or after dinner. It is nice having such a variety of settings under only one roof. While each room does have a different feel, they are all based around the same concept - the British Empire (Far-Eastern countries such as Singapore and India). This theme, in both the design and the food, sets Double Crown apart from a typical Asian-fusion restaurant.

The start of the menu contains a variety of small bar plates known as "hawker style snacks." Placing our order immediately for a sampling of several, we were quickly served and still choosing the rest of the meal when the snacks arrived. This was a great way to ease into the meal and not feel rushed when going through the menu. And, based on how tasty they were, the dishes got us very excited for the rest of our dinner. We ordered "Pigs in a Wet Blanket" - the wet blanket being a lychee, coconut sauce - and steamed duck buns with hoisin and scallions. Both were nicely prepared, but the pigs in a blanket are a must. The only thing they really do have in common with this very American hors d'oeuvre is the name.

Since we began the night sharing dishes and most Asian food is really most enjoyable when shared, we ended up splitting the rest of our plates as well. From the appetizers we ordered Singapore Laksa with green tea noodles, crab meat, and bean sprouts as well as the coconut-chili chicken salad with mint, snow peas, and shrimp floss. Both were delicious and full of flavor - and a great soup and salad combination. For the entrees, we ordered goan vegetable curry with shaved fennel, ram chips and minted yogurt and lamb cashew meatballs with shaved coconut, onion rings and lime pickle. To add to our coconut feast, we also ordered a side of green beans with roasted coconut - and, believe it or not, I never got sick of the coconut flavor - I just wanted more and more! The unique preparation of the curry made it my preferred main course.

The wonderful start and progression to the meal led us to believe that we had escaped all opening week jitters. However, halfway through the curry, we realized that there were no meatballs in sight. While the meatballs had, in fact, been left behind, our waiter immediately put in a new order and did not keep us waiting very long. We quickly forgot about the mix up, but were nicely reminded of it when the dish had been taken off of our final bill. While Double Crown didn't completely avoid a flawless beginning, the kind service quickly proved that they do know how to run a business - and, that is often half the battle in New York. With a top-notch setting, an adventuresome menu, and the proper etiquette, Double Crown has successfully entered the New York City dining scene. Even though this place is not going anywhere, I would head there while you still can!

Double Crown
316 Bowery
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 254-0350

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