Sunday, March 16, 2008


Stanton Social
99 Stanton St (btw Ludlow & Orchard)
Kitchen open til at least 2pm every night.

I have to admit I wasn't ready to have the experience I had at The Stanton Social. I had major restaurant prejudice I suppose. Stanton Social is located in the prime of the Lower East Side and pre-judging by the models and celebrity-sightings, I wasn't expecting much more than a lot of pomp and circumstance.

Of course, the reason I woke up on a Sunday morning to write this is obviously because I had to right the wrong of my negative karma-I am embarassed at my innate harshness, this place was fantastic! The Stanton Social is just that, a place to go on a Friday or Saturday night when dinner is your main focus of the Big Night Out. It's a bizarre situation because the place is just as popular for drinks and socializing as it is for the food--which they keep coming until 3 a.m. on big nights of the week and 2 a.m. Sunday--Wednesday.

The four of us were seated upstairs in the dining room/lounge and my only complaint is the draw-back of such close quarters--and specifically those close quarters to drunken NY revealers, as we were seated right at the fringe between dining and drinking. Just to throw that out there, because this is NOT a romantic night spot where you can listen to Nina Simone with your Honey and quiety ponder the lusciousness of your Pinot Noir selection--this is a high-energy, well-oiled machine that churns out impeccably timed service and, more importantly, impeccably polished food.

I'm a fan of the sharing portions--and that's all Stanton Social's menu consists of, naturally of course, as it is the Social way to eat. We were told to order anywhere from 6 to 8 pieces from this menu, which was a challenge because everything sounded amazing! I even said out loud at one point, that I'd never read a menu where I absolutely would be happy ordering absolutely anything (and everything). We went all out: Duck Confit Empanadas with Blood Orange Dipping Sauce, Chicken-and-Waffles, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Kobe Beef Burgers, Pommes Frites, Old School Meatballs, Nori Spiced Tuna Tartare Rolls, Maine Crabcake "Corn Dogs", Chipotle Grilled Shrimp, French Onion Soup Dumplings, BBQ Pulled Pork Pizzeta, and Warm Doughnuts for Dessert.

Everything was delicous. Definately order the French Onion Soup Dumplings--they were a table favorite--and not to ruin the surprise but we have the low-down on what WE thought is the secret to this dish. They are presented together as a French Onion Soup Bowl that's been typically crusted over in broiled cheese. But when you take the toothpicks out you realize that this crock is atually an escargot dish with 6 little cubbyholes where the dumplings are placed. The dumplings are actually FILLED with French Onion Soup. Huh? That's what we said. Of course I had an image of the Chefs injecting the dumplings with the liquid but once we tasted it--it was very oniony and thick and I knew that couldn't be the case. Apparently, the Chefs FREEZE the French Onion Soup in little cubes and take the dumpling and wrap them around each frozen counterpart. Then they are placed in cubbyholes of the dish, and cheese is topped all over the top, The dish is sent to the Broiler where the cheese melts & crusts as the cubes of soup defrost and warm up. Then toothpicks are inserted (with a little crouton on top) on each of the 6 dumplings and served. Delicious and BRAVO--something that tastes just as good as it is presented--that is a basic theme of Stanton Social. Chris Santos, the Partner-Chef at Stanton, does it well and is known for that. No rhyme or reason behind the menu except for the fact that each dish is one of Santos' personal picks--and that's all I could ask for!

Yes, it's pricey. Yes, it's hard to get reservations--but listen, if you have some friends coming to the city that have something in their minds about the big "city experience" definately take them here--that way, they're satisfied, and you can actually ENJOY doing something "touristy" for once. You'll love it. And expect to walk away from this meal with a severe food coma, drinks post-dinner were just not physically possible for us! But we did enjoy a great night's sleep.

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