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Chez Sardine: Another Success for Little Wisco

January 3, 2013

Gabriel Stulman and team have the recipe for a successful restaurant pretty much down pat and ingrained into memory.  That perfect almost magical combination of amazing food, great cocktails, intimate space, and a carefree but not careless attitude seems to churn out smash hits after another.  So perfect that I can’t help but fall in love with Chez Sardine, the latest addition to the Little Wisco family that is no different from some of Gabriel Stulman’s finest originals.

MD and I slid into Chez Sardine on a Friday night just ahead of a few other hopeful diners for the last two immediately available seats.  This was Gabriel Stulman’s American take on a traditional Japanese izakaya and was apparent not only in the food but also in the decor. Just take a look at the rather large framed picture of Mr. Miyagi looming over the small bar where we chose to dine.

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The menu is divided into four sections: small bites, sushi bar, small plates and larger plates.  None of the dishes are traditional and that makes me anticipate our upcoming bites even more.

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We started with cod fritters and pork and unagi hand roll from the snack section.  The cod fritters were served simply with an aioli and dash of lemon.  With a dab of sriracha, we devoured these before the pork and unagi hand roll appeared.  Our waitress urged us to consume this two biter as soon as possible in order to preserve the crispiness.  Who knew pork and unagi can work so well together in harmony?  The fattiness of the pork belly melted seamlessly into the buttery unagi and a crunch from the roll broke up the texture.

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From the sushi bar, we settled on an one bite chopped scallop with quail egg and trout roe.  This was really my bite because it wasn’t an easy dish to share.  The bite might have been small but it was full of flavor from the popping trout roe and delicate scallops.  Not entirely sure what the quail egg added but it certainly made this beautiful to look at.

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From there, we moved onto the small plates.  Crunchy sushi balls were accompanied by beautiful mackerel, lightly seared thin slices of scallops, vibrant tobiko and chunks of avocado and spicy mayo.  This decomposed version of a spicy crunchy roll was almost too beautiful to eat but one bite and I was too busy eating to notice how we tore through the plate.

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Remembering our amazing experience with the johnny cakes at Neptune’s Oyster Bar in Boston, I couldn’t resist ordering the breakfast pancakes with fish tartare (mackerel again), roe and yogurt.  While the sweet and savory combination worked its magic once again, I couldn’t help but miss the crunchy caramelized texture of the johnny cakes from Neptune’s.

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We debated back and forth between the chopped beef and uni sushi and the beef tartare with lime cream and horseradish.  Our helpful bartender broke the tie and recommended the lighter dish, the beef tartare.  A spicy kick from the horseradish certainly woke up my taste buds and I loved that this was served with a chewy strecci from Sullivan Street Bakery.

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Sitting at the bar in close proximity to others meant ordering jealousy and we weren’t immune from it.  Before we could think twice, an order of the crispy chicken with kimchi and cabbage had arrived.  While the chicken bites were perfectly crunchy, they were sadly underseasoned which could not be remedied by the kimchi cream and cabbage.

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Luckily, that little blip of misordering was quickly forgotten when our final dish arrived.  The maple miso salmon head was quite sight and rightfully occupied the central location right in the middle of the menu.  This is not a dish for timid diners, requiring us to dig in with our hands to tear apart the bones for every little last sweet salty bit.  And yes, I will admit it – I ate the eye.  While this is not required, I do highly recommend letting down your guards and use your fingers if you do order this.  That is precisely why white towelettes were provided.

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Similar to our dinner at Joseph Leonard, we were presented with a little sweet bite instead of a dessert menu at the conclusion of the meal.  The little bowls of maple pudding with rice krisipes were just what we needed.  We lingered at the bar with our drinks just a little longer after an amazing meal at this unique American Japanese izakaya in its own little corner of the West Village.

Chez Sardine | 183 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10014 | http://chezsardine.com

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2013 10.20 pm

    place looks great! similar to Joseph Leanards?

    • January 28, 2013 11.15 pm

      It was amazing! I think more exotic than Joseph Leonards and a little more spacious but the same great management and vibe. Definitely worth checking out 🙂

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