NYC - Vandal - Cool Spot, Cool Food

Vandal - 199 Bowery, NYC, 10002

A friend of mine was visiting from San Francisco, so I (Mirko) used this as an opportunity to go out and try a few new places (for me at least) to eat out in New York City (NYC). 

Vandal, a part of the Tao group of restaurants is located on Bowery and has an unassuming florist as its initial storefront. Walk through the florist and you are then welcomed by a vast expanse of a restaurant as well as a downstairs bar area. All four of us who dined on the night were equally surprised at how large the restaurant was.

The restaurant location is decked out with graffiti'd walls and cool artwork with some nice beats playing in the background. The table settings also matched the 'vandal' vibe with gun-metal grey cutlery adding to the urban aesthetic of the location.

After being seated and provided with our menus, we ask the waiter how many dishes we would need. Vandal's menu consists of small, medium and large plates and 4 people would require 4-8 small to medium dishes. We ordered 5 dishes plus 2 desserts which was considered sufficient for us. 

Lost and Found - $16
Prior to eating, I ordered a Lost and Found cocktail, which consisted of Hendricks Gin, Aperol, Sage and Lemon. As a gin lover, and this being a gin base I was already sold. The addition of the aperol, sage and lemon made for a light and refreshing cocktail, a good start to the evening.

Spicy Korean Rice Cakes - $14
The Spicy Korean Rice Cakes with Mizuna Kimchi is the first to arrive of the small plates we ordered. When I was looking at this on the menu, I was expecting this to resemble a Kimchi pancake, so when they arrive as smaller bite sized pieces I am pleasantly surprised. The rice cakes have a crunchy exterior and an overall chewy texture which is pleasant to the palate. The Mizuna (a herb that goes by the name of Japanese mustard, California peppergrass etc) kimchi has a nice flavour which does not overpower the dish.

Crispy Bao Buns - $19 (for 3) 
Next were the crispy bao buns with brisket, crunchy Asian slaw and sesame. I have had many bao in my time and again, have not seen them prepared like they were here (think baked/fried as opposed to steamed). The brisket was soft, juicy and flavourful and worked well with the crunch and tang of the Asian slaw to provide an overall well balanced dish.

Banh Mi'eatball slider - $8 each
To continue with the finger food theme, two of us ordered the Banh Mi'eatball sliders which consisted of spicy pork meatball, foie gras mousse with pickled this and that (literally what the menu says). This was my least favourite dish of the night. The pork meatball was very dry and without any sauce to mask this, made for a very average dish.

Wild Mushroom Street Pizza - $21
The Wild mushroom street pizza with fontina, mozzarella, caramelized onion was delicious. The pizza base was thin and crispy and the the toppings on top were nice and fresh. The combination of mozzarella and caramelized onion provided sweet and salty flavours which provided balance throughout the dish.

Chicken Katsu and Hong Kong Egg Waffles - $28
Of the large dishes, we went for the Chicken Katsu and Hong Kong Egg Waffles - an Asian inspired take on the more traditional chicken and waffles. The chicken was prepared in a Japanese 'katsu' style which consists of a breaded chicken that is deep fried. This was then coupled with Hong Kong Egg Waffles which are typically more associated with a dessert item. The chicken was nice and moist whilst the egg waffles were soft and slightly sweet. The combination of crunchy, soft, sweet and salty worked well and was an interesting take on this American dish.

Vandal S'mores - $14
With the savoury portion of our meal over, we moved to desserts. I actually saw a few more I wanted to try (most notably being the nutella cannoli) but thought that with the amount eaten so far this would be better left to another day, so went for the Vandal S'mores with Graham cracker ice cream. Again, as noted above, the presentation was not what I had expected as I was thinking that a traditional 's'more' would arrive on the plate. The marshmallow topping was torched to provide a melted marshmallow consistency atop a graham cracker base. The icecream that accompanied was nice and smooth and as it was not overly sweet allowed it to cut through the sweet marshmallow top.

Greek Donuts - $14
To finish off, we had the Greek Donuts more commonly known as Loukoumades paired with a honey ice cream with candied pistachios. The donuts were light and fluffy, but overall lacked flavour and needed to be eaten with the icecream to provide that sweet element.

All in all, I, along with my friends were pleased with our meal at Vandal. The combination of fun aesthetic and interesting fusion dishes made for a great night out. Whilst here, also try out the downstairs bar and some of the cocktails on offer.

Vegetarian/Vegan options: Some vegetarian options available, but not a lot.
Child friendly: Definitely more of an adult vibe, keep the kids at home.

Ambiance: 4/5 - a real cool vibe with great beats
Service: 3.5/5 - overall, service was as expected
Food: 7.5/10 - a few minor tweaks would have improved this

In total, OTCB gives Vandal 15/20 chops On The Chopping Board.

Vandal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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