Sunday Dinner is not to taken lightly. Nothing beats a home cooked spread, maybe a little sauce bada boom bada bing how you doin, but a reservation at Vandal was put to great use, if I do say so myself. This was my 5th visit to this Lower East Side hot spot. I’m not sure if it’s been my food selection or if they’ve upped their game in the kitchen, but the food has gotten better and better. My first three times at Vandal were all good, but the last two have been stellar in terms of the food itself. I will say that the service has been inconsistent, but the food was so good last night that the service is merely an afterthought.
First course: Tuna Sashimi ‘Tonnato Style’
Sliced tuna, topped with crunchy chorizo (yes, chorizo), lemon zested olive oil. Our waitress recommended this dish unsolicited and specifically cited the chorizo pairing perfectly with the tuna. Alas, she was spot on. Never in my life would I have considered the two together, but sure enough it worked. Similar to how bacon makes anything better, the chorizo elevated this dish to a level I hadn’t imagined plausible. Highly recommended based on the chorizo element alone.
Second course: Tortilla Soup Dumplings
No dish had a prettier aesthetic. This is a blurry, iPhone 7+ rendition of what is a stunning presentation, and it still catches the eye. Sister restaurant Beauty & Essex has their own Grilled Cheese w/ Tomato Soup rendition of this appetizer, also served in individual soup spoons. Each dumpling is filled with queso poblano, topped with some pico and tortilla strips, and resting in a tomato-y vegetable posole broth. Salivating yet? This is a must order if you’re with a big group.
Third course: Barrio-Style Chicken Taquitos
Disregarding the fact that I severely burned the roof of my mouth thus ruining all foods for the next 48 hours, I loved this. It’s nice to know that there are quality taquitos out there and not only the trash they serve at 7Eleven. The sauce blanketing the chicken on the inside? Roasted guajillo. On top? Avocado and “crema” (basically a light sour cream). Nice spice level to this one, would order again.
Fourth course: 35-Day Dry Aged 14oz. New York Strip
You can deliver me anything on a cutting board or some wooden plank dish, and I’ll gush all over it. This main course, however, delivered on more than just presentation. The picture is slightly misleading, and the cook was closer to the requested medium rare than it may seem. The outer pieces were closer to medium but tender and tasty nonetheless. Love me a good thyme garnish as well. The house sauce was a sweet and tangy rendition of a typical Worcestershire I’d say. And the onion rings…OH the onion rings. I’ve never felt strongly one way or the other with onion rings, but these were some of the best I’ve ever had. Golden brown, perfectly fried, liberally salted, and overall sublime. This was the star of the meal and well worth the $48 price point.
Dessert: Vandal S’mores
I’m a simple man when it comes to dessert. And after a king’s feast like the one I had, Vandal’s take on S’mores with Graham Cracker Ice Cream was a beautiful finale.
Vandal is about as cool as a spot as you’ll find in New York. Not relevant but not irrelevant, I saw Conor McGregor the last time I was there. Every inch of the restaurant displays a unique blend of cultures from the artwork on the walls to the menu and everything in between. Executive Chef Chris Santos takes common “street food” and elevate them into restaurant quality dishes. As you can see above, there’s no short supply of creativity at Vandal. And because it’s New York City, I should emphasize that the plates are all shareable and very reasonable in price. Looking forward to another meal at Vandal. Cheers!