Wednesday, February 4, 2009

heavy lies the crown...

asian fusion restaurants have more skeptical critics than george w. bush, and rightly so. few chefs understand and respect eastern ingredients enough to do them justice via western applications. critics LOVE to tear fusion menus apart; they are usually easy targets marked by uninspired culinary creations with clumsy flavor profiles. double crown breaks the mold.

double crown
316 bowery
new york, ny 10012


i've wanted to visit double crown since its opening this past september, however, i didn't get around to it until a couple of weeks ago. in a strange twist of culinary fate, on the day of my reservation i discovered that i went to high school with the pastry chef, rob. he had such lovely hair back then, i wish i had pics to post and embarrass him. i want to thank him once again for his generosity and hospitality during our visit. double crown exceeded my expectations and it's good to know they have at least one person on staff who cares.

the vibe was part sex in the city, part day spa, and part buddhist shrine. a sprawling bar, stocked with exotic drinks provided refuge for the sober just off the entrance, while tropical foliage coyly framed the esoteric wood carvings embellishing the perimeter.

but let's be honest, i was here for the food...


lentil flatbreads; dipping sauce trio

(left to right curried mustard, tamarind, cucumber raita)

-- crunchy and addictive. it was a classic case of, "i'll just have two" turned, "i better finish these off before my girlfriend decides she wants more." the lentil flatbreads, a traditional indian snack, were crisp and earthy - they had all the indulgence of a side of fries without all the guilt. of all the dipping sauces, the curried mustard was my favorite; mild yet tangy with the slightest bit of heat. the cucumber raita came in at a close second; the lightly herbed yogurt and cool cucumber combination was head-and-shoulders above its contemporaries served at the pakistani slop-shops throughout this fine city. the tamarind sauce, however, eh...not so much. this particular condiment never does it for me; if a dipping sauce isn't thick enough to clog a straw (and presumably an artery) than i'm just not that into it, sorry.


salt & pepper sepia; squid ink vinaigrette

- sepia (aka "cuttlefish") is kind of like squid, but different and the salt & pepper preparation is kind of like italian calamari, but different. however, for all intents and purposes, both proteins and preparations are very much the same. the batter is slightly thicker than you would find at an italian restaurant and much more aggressively seasoned. these little squidbillies were deep fried to perfection and served with a wedge of lime and squid ink vinaigrette. aside from its jet black appearance, the squid ink vinaigrette was actually pretty conventional - kinda salty, kinda tangy; nothing to be squeamish about. YUM.

baised pork belly; chili caramel, fresh herbs

-- beneath a bed of fresh mint and cilantro hide two unctuous pieces of pork belly, lazily lying about in a zesty puddle of chili caramel; a snappy slice of squash tossed in for good measure. vietnamese-style caramel sauces are something you have to taste to truly understand. there's an obvious sweet component due to the caramel, but hot chilies and fish sauce take it to the next level. there's never enough with a dish like this.

duck steam bun; pickled asian pear, sourdough

-- the taste and texture of the sourdough bun was enjoyable, however, the individual flavors were all but lost. the duck was nondescript and the pickled pear was no where to be found. the hoisin dipping sauce was yummy, but otherwise very straight forward. if you REALLY want a steamed duck bun, perhaps you should keep walking down the bowery to canal, otherwise just enjoy any of the other interesting dishes on double crown's menu.

carrot and cardamom soup; chili marshmallow, cilantro oil, pumpkin seeds

-- double crown's take on mulligatawny soup - classic. notes of ginger, cardamom and spices danced against a velvety carrot backdrop. and a marshmallow? they really shouldn't have, but i'm glad they did. it reminded me of a sweet potato casserole with marshmallow crust from the holidays, only subtopic. the crunchy pumpkin seeds proved to be a delightful crispy garnish.

miso-glazed bone marrow; orange-olive marmalade, brioche

-- i'm used to extracting marrow manually, with my teeth. having it prepared and presented in such a manner as to not break my jaw was quite a
treat. the miso glaze created some great color under the salamander, however, its flavor was subtle and unobtrusive. unfortunately, i can't say the same for the robust marmalade that easily overshadowed the marrow's delicate sensibilities if not used sparingly. it was more enjoyable on its own as a spread on the accompanying brioche

yellowtail sashimi; tomato vinaigrette; crispy lotus root

-- lightly seared and undeniably fresh, less is more. topped with a light vinaigrette, cilantro and a crispy slice of lotus root, this refreshing morsel was heaven on a plate; albeit rather difficult to wrangle with chopsticks.

sides & mains:

steamed rice; cinnamon, raisins, green chili/scallion relish

-- a pretty straight forward preparation; not much to comment about. the rice was cooked properly, it's not a difficult task, but you'd be surprised how many places drop the ball. the green chili/scallion relish had a heavy garlic influence and was overall very refreshing. sweet, plump raisins elevated the bold relish to another level, ultimately transcending this simple dish beyond, "just a bowl of rice."

garam masala potatoes; baby spinach

-- again, a pretty straight forward preparation. the potatoes were well seasoned and the house-blended garam masala had an adequate ethnic punch. the baby spinach added some nice color but not much else. i would have been more thrilled with this dish if they had prepared it more like a hash; crispy caramelization - iron skillet style.

grilled yellowfin tuna; baby spinach, shallot confit, fried taro

-- WOW. what a looker. from the top to the bottom then the bottom to the top; eat with your eyes first. at the base, a flavor pool of shallots confit, seasoned with a hint of worcestershire. second floor, mandatory roughage and glistening greens. the tuna was well seasoned a seared to perfection, but that is easy to see. fried taro, the crowning jewel; nothing special flavor wise, but it does attract the eye and add a great texture contrast.

venison wellington; red currant jus, cranberry chutney

-- it tastes as good as it looks. the gamey venison loin was cooked perfectly; not well-done, not medium, not medium-rare, but RARE...135 degrees, RARE. i appreciate that. the flakey dough was a tad too doughy rather than flakey, but i blame that on the leek that snuck its way inbetween the meat and the pastry crust. the piquant sauce and chutney did well to balance the gaminess of the rare deer meat and tied the dish together well.


rice pudding samosa;honey apple chutney, carrot ice cream, fenugreek anglaise

-- an incredibly novel idea reinforced by flawless execution and a palatable delivery. the "samosa" was more similar to those of the thai variety rather than their indian cousins. nestled deep within a delicately fried exterior, a rich rice pudding lie in wait; poised to ambush an unsuspecting mouth with its textual ambrosia. the piquant apple chutney had the sweet and sour vibe down; the ying to the carrot ice cream's reserved, mellow yang. although the anglaise did add a welcomed luxuriant texture to the dish, its fenugreek component seemed to get lost in the fray.

pumpkin brioche pudding, miso butterscotch and chai ice cream

-- i'd love to get my hands on this recipe. brioche is my bread of choice when making bread pudding and pumpkin is easily one of my favorite flavors; to combine the two is genious. you could taste the pumpkin but it wasn't overpowering, a difficult balance to achieve. moreover, the consistency was spot on; not too dense, not too mushy. it's the type of dessert that makes you forget about calories and saturated fat.

(sampler) passion fruit marshmallow; citrus tart; chocolate english trifle

- what's better than house-made marshmallows? well, i suppose house-made marshmallows that taste like passion fruit. an airy little adventure to someplace warm where passion fruits are still in season; my favorite treat on the sampler plate.

- i'm not a big fan of tarts, that being said, i found this little bite to be rather enjoyable. the consistency had a keylime pie thing going on, i enjoyed that. it wasn't too acidic for a citrus-based confection, a relief considering how tart some tarts can get.

- not so much an english trifle as it was a cup of pudding, but i'm not complaining. the chocolate was rich and downright decadent, this is a good thing. it even came equipped with its own utensil, a convenient toffee scoop.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

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