When fashion people heartily endorse a restaurant, one’s suspicions are immediately aroused. Do they serve actual food there? Or merely a substance one can push around the plate while admiring the crowd, as at Indochine or Monkey Bar? This is a tribe that espouses the joy of cooking with sugar substitutes and raw cacao nibs, a tribe that professes to actually like the taste of kombucha. So when the praise started rolling in for new, vegetal-themed British restaurant the Fat Radish, we had to go experience it for ourselves.
Rest assured, the “fat” in name is merely playful, so you can still wear your skinny jeans here. Owned by the people behind Silkstone, a catering company that caters largely to – surprise! – the fashion industry, the Fat Radish skews towards British food. Not like the Breslin, however: there’s nary a pig’s foot in sight. Instead the array of greens and legumes on the menu speaks to the fact that that the Brits were into this organic, locally-sourced thing way before we were. Look at Prince Charles and his cute little vegetable garden!
Another important consideration for fashion people when selecting a restaurant is that other fashion people dine there. Otherwise, one may be in the wrong sort of place, or worse, a place that no one cares about. Thus, my friend California Girl and I were immediately put at ease by the crowd of models, dandies, and fashionably dressed women with artfully disheveled hair that had flocked to this new restaurant on the border of the middle of nowhere. Ecru-washed, perfectly distressed brick walls formed the basis of an urban rustic interior with communal tables, leaded glass windows and a roomy bar area. Everyone looked fabulous in the candlelight.
The largely vegetarian/pescatarian menu does have pieces of meat here and there, like bacon bits thrown into a Chop’t salad as a guilty indulgence. But some thought has been put into the meatier dishes, like a special of slightly gamey, gratifyingly chewy duck rillette ($8), a paté of shredded duck served with toasts, onion jam and whole grain mustard.
Of course, the heartier dishes were underrepresented compared to the diet plates, of which there were many. As an amuse bouche, we received a plate of pristine raw vegetables tossed in an olive tapenade. Calorie count: approximately -6. Or take the inspired vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy and take out the butter, and you’d have something like the crunchy, part-raw, part-roasted salad of cauliflower with curried yogurt dressing ($12). Just tasting it made me feel like Gwyneth Paltrow on a really fat day.
Monkfish vindaloo ($21) looked intriguing, and indeed, it was a classic Indian dish that had been tricked into being good for you. Fat Radish’s version has all the heady spice of the original, but without any of the oil in actual Indian food. What you lose in the bargain, however, is the binding agent that pulls all the flavors together. The choice of proteins was apt, since monkfish is one of the few fish strong enough to stand up to vindaloo’s pungency. Nubbly whole grain rice added nutty flavor, texture and the satisfying sensation of actually eating carbs. The other accoutrements were severely lacking, however: stale pita toasts and thick, gummy yogurt raita.
A straight male on a date here would probably throw himself towards the life preservers of the large burgers circulating around the room, which I looked after longingly as they headed to other tables. Instead, we had the day boat scallops ($22). Their natural sweetness was enhanced by the bed of pureed squash underneath, offset by the bracing healthfulness of beet greens. Though I can’t be sure, I detected a note of actual butter on their pan-seared exterior.
So far, so good. I was at a restaurant endorsed by fashion people and vegetarians, and I was not going to leave hungry, as at horrid Zen Palate on Union Square, which, in a twist of fate that could only be its rightfully deserved karma, became a TGI Friday’s. And fortunately, the Fat Radish serves a good Pinot Noir – even if it is biodynamic.
For dessert, we went with California Girl’s daring choice of beet root chocolate cake. Which begs the question: is it really necessary to put pureed beet root in chocolate cake? Though certainly sweet, the cake had as much beet taste as it did chocolate, two tastes that do not go great together. This is the Jessica Seinfeld school of cooking, like sneaking spinach into a milkshake. And like the toddlers that are her intended target, I resented it.
But as everyone knows, there is no fashion without pain. Just as you must endure the pinch of stilettos through a whole night of posh parties, you must suffer through the virtue of fastidious plates of vegetables to arrive at the farm-to-table freshness of the Fat Radish. As the plates of carrots land at tables of models, just make sure you always order the fattiest thing on the menu – skinny jeans be damned.
The Fat Radish
17 Orchard Street, between Canal and Hester Streets
New York, NY