After posting my review of Double Crown’s Mulligatawny, I was surprised with a comment from M at the restaurant’s parent company, AvroKO. She had “a suggestion,” which ended up being much more than I could ever imagine:
“We came across your blog yesterday and we loved your mission of finding the 50 best soups in the city! Our Executive Chef Brad Farmerie loves making and serving soups in the restaurant, so he was glad to find someone [who] really appreciates that! So, we would like to invite you to come for dinner on Sunday night; we’re currently making a few changes to the menu and are inviting friends, family and foodies to come and sample some of the dishes that Brad Farmerie & Chris Rendell are working on, and we thought, given how much of a soup fan you are, that we’d really like to get your thoughts on the new menu (which includes a wonderful laksa I hope you’ll love!).”
Excited beyond words, I immediately wrote her back and set a reservation for me plus two for their Sunday Nonya Nights. After waiting in anticipation all week, T, Jamiroquai and I finally met up this past Sunday and had a dinner experience that not only satisfied our stomachs but also made us feel like royalty. I’m pretty sure (but not 100% positive) that guests are typically supposed to choose one of two choices for each course on the Nonya menu, and then share each choice family-style. Well, the three of us were treated to everything on the menu, plus an extra dish, courtesy of Chef Chris Rendell.
As I was taking photos, I wondered whether or not I could be fully honest in this blog entry since they were being so incredibly generous. But they did say they wanted my feedback on the new menu, so here are my unabashed thoughts: all dishes used extremely fresh ingredients, some could use a little tweaking, none left me with a desire to stop eating. Overall, while in the company of two girlfriends that I consider family, I sometimes felt right at home, and I gobbled up as much as I could…until I couldn’t loosen my belt anymore.
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While we waited for T to arrive, Jamiroquai and I ordered cocktails, which, unfortunately, tasted a bit like medicine.
(Left) CUCUMBER, APPLE AND ELDERFLOWER TALL
Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, apple, elderflower, wild honey, cucumber
(Right) THAI BASIL DARK & STORMY
Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, homemade Thai basil ginger
Nonya Nights Menu
No price on this menu, but I looked it up, and it’s usually $35 per person.
We were wondering who made the bread because they were tassstyyyy. There was a jalapeno bread of some sort with salt crystals on top, but our favorite was the one with raisins, fennel and other goodness. We weren’t afraid to ask for more. 🙂 The coconut butter was too hard and didn’t add to the flavors.
I just noticed this wasn’t on the menu. While it tasted good (but not as good as Taste Good’s Laksa in Queens, which had more kick) and the noodles had a nice texture, the presentation left me slightly confused. I felt strange eating and drinking a milky coconut substance – instead of black or chrysanthemum tea – out of a teacup.
Pot of Extra Broth
For me, this is also the type of soup where I would really want the starch of the noodles to eat with it. That’s why, after I finished the sliver of a noodle in my teacup, I never poured more broth out of this pot. I kept wondering, if the extra broth and our individual portions of noodles were put together in one bowl, would the soup-to-noodle ratio be insanely distorted?
I say keep it simple. If it’s on the normal menu, I would serve it the traditional way in a medium-sized bowl for one person. For Nonya nights, which are supposed to be about family-style, I would serve this laksa the way they serve soup at Chinese banquets. The waiter brings out a big bowl of soup and serves it into little bowls, making sure every bowl gets a little bit of everything (or you do it yourself). It’s more of a shared experience. There’s just something about taking portions out of the same dish that makes you feel closer.
(Left) Salt & Pepper Squid w/Green Chili Dipping Sauce; (Right) Apple, Lotus & Lily Bulb Salad w/Chili Miso Dressing
I LOVE Salt and Pepper Squid, so I was very excited that this was on the menu. It was nicely fried, but the first few pieces were too salty. Once you got to the bottom, however, the pieces were more perfectly seasoned. The green chili dipping sauce didn’t excite any of us either. I’d toss slices of fresh green chili pepper with the squid instead.
The Apple, Lotus and Lily Bulb Salad was AWESOME. I couldn’t stop commenting how refreshing it was. This was also my first time eating Lily Bulb. Um, hello? I am oh so sad that I have been missing this all my life! I never would’ve thought that miso dressing with apples would pair well together, but I think I’d eat this salad everyday for lunch if I could. Do I dare try making this at home?
COMPLIMENTS OF THE CHEF: Yellowtail Sashimi w/Cucumber, Hijiki, Citrus-Truffle Dressing
This yellowtail sashimi was a nice surprise. On the surface, it looked like maybe there was too much going on, but the different textures and flavors worked well together.
I think this was the point I loosened my belt a notch, and yet I still had a loooong way to go.
Coconut Chicken with Snowpeas and Mint
This chicken salad contained thinly sliced snowpeas, peanuts, raw beansprouts, mint, cilantro, toasted coconut and baby dried shrimp powder. I couldn’t really taste all of the ingredients, and Jamiroquai said she wished there was more mint, but, just like the apple salad, I personally wish I could eat this for lunch once in a while, too.
Oatmeal Crusted Shrimp w/Fried Garlic
Possibly my FAVORITE DISH of the night. Fried shrimp is a pretty popular Chinese banquet dish whenever my family has some dinner party, but I’ve never had it quite like this. I usually don’t bother eating it because it’s just way too greasy, but this was something else entirely. You could see it was deep fried, but it tasted rather light. Does oatmeal automatically make everything taste and feel healthier?
Behold the steak knife! This is the point where Jamiroquai exclaimed that Double Crown was really winning her over – the partially serrated blade, light weight, and pretty ivory (?) handle… Scary. 🙂
Grilled Strip Steak w/Chinese Black Bean Sauce
Too bad she wasn’t as ecstatic about the steak, which I could understand.
Although the steak was perfectly cooked – very tender and not hard to chew – there was a slight disconnect with this dish, despite some of its Asian ingredients. I couldn’t taste the black beans, and the Chinese broccoli might’ve been better served as leaves only to resemble collard greens (and maybe with some mashed taro root?). I appreciate the play on traditional Chinese beef and broccoli (if that’s indeed what it was), but, in this case, I’d rather have the Chinese version.
Sweet & Sour Eggplant w/Tofu & Pickled Bean Sprout
I couldn’t wait for this dish to come out because I wanted to see how it’d compare with my mom’s eggplant dish – one of my faves. In the end, this might be a very close second to the fried shrimp. My only gripe is that it was slightly too sugary for me, so I prefer my mom’s version. But it IS called “Sweet and Sour” Eggplant. *shrug* The mushrooms at the bottom kept me going back for more.
Brussel Sprouts w/Sweet Chili Glaze
Looks charred, right? Well, brussel sprouts that are charred and crisp on the outside ROCK! These rivaled the ones T and I love at The Vanderbilt in Brooklyn. Jamiroquai doesn’t usually like charred things, but she liked these.
Steamed Rice w/Ginger-Garlic Relish
The Rice – no Asian meal can do without rice, in my opinion. I eat a lot of it, and I typically eat it plain with my meal. But Double Crown’s ginger-garlic relish won me over, even though it looked a bit unappetizing. I think I could eat this by itself as dinner every night and be perfectly happy.
Doggie Bag Claim Check
Before dessert was served, I had asked one of the waiters to pack up our leftovers. I sure as heck wasn’t going to let that all go to waste. A few minutes later, the waiter placed a claim check in front of me, and, after seeing the utter confusion on my face, told me that it was for my doggie bag on my way out. Genius! The table or floor wouldn’t be cluttered with a to-go bag, and I could continue on with my pleasant evening without feeling rushed.
(Left) Kalamansi Lime Custard w/Tangerine Broth & Champagne Kaffir Jelly; (Right) Warm Banana Fritter w/Cashew Toffee Ice Cream & Cereal Crisp
“MmmMMMMmmmmmMMmmmm…MMmmmMMmmMMm…” is all you could hear from us while we ate these desserts. Jamiroquai and I wanted to end with our favorite one, but we couldn’t figure out which one that was. T declared the Kalamansi Lime Custard her fave. It resembled a creamsicle (but better) and refreshed the palate.
The fried banana reminded me of Filipino fried bananas but with a welcome crust. The oatmeal crisp had just the right amount of sugar and spice, and the cashew ice cream thankfully tasted like real cashews and not a bunch of extracts. Cashews are one of my favorite nuts, and I’ve never seen them made into an ice cream flavor, so this was special to me. Together, these three pieces complemented each other, but they were also good enough to stand on their own.
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As you can imagine, we left stuffed. Too. Much. Good. Food. Sure, perhaps there could be some minor adjustments, but Double Crown will definitely be seeing me more often. I’m especially excited to experience brunch in the Springtime.
Thank you to M for contacting me and making the reservations for dinner. Thank you to the waiters for being friendly and accommodating and never trying to rush us out. And a huge thank you again to Chef Farmerie and Chef Rendell (whom I had the pleasure of meeting). Words can’t express my gratitude for treating me and my friends to such a memorable meal.