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“The Mott”

  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out New American Soho Moderate Good

Back in the day, Wyanoka, a restaurant named for the Indian painted on this Chinatown tenement’s façade, had a serious following as an under the radar foodie favorite. I was one of its most ardent fans. I loved the off-the-beaten path location, the mod design, the fresh eclectic menu, and the steady hospitality. Front of House was run by Peter Kane and in the kitchen was chef Chris Santos. This was many years ago now, back in the late nineties, but the duo are still together; they now run the super successful Stanton Social.

Wyanoka is no longer and neither is Double Happiness, the lounge located downstairs. But in its place you’ll now find The Mott, a slender low-lit restaurant with big square windows that open, sort of like urban portholes, to the gritty Chinatown street. Inside you’ll find a mix of vintage touches and modern accents: burnished tin ceilings, bare filament bulbs and long wooden banquettes along a wall of white wainscoting. It feels a little Nantucket, a little AvroKo.
While the restaurant has a nice vibe, and the owners are there to give an unusually warm welcome, when Jamie and I were in last week the place was sparsely populated, but that’s not because the food isn’t good (though it has its ups and downs), or the service isn’t attentive. It’s more because a dispute with one of the former owners (the model Emma Cleary) has left the two remaining partners without a liquor license and they are not technically BYOB. Nonetheless, perhaps because we were discreet about it, the manager was fine with us popping out for a bottle of rose. Dinner just isn’t dinner without wine. Neither is breakfast, come to think of it.

Once the liquor license has been cleared I am sure the place will draw crowds. Chef Brian Bieler (Bouley, Compass) has created a succinct, moderately priced seasonal menu somewhat comically dubbed “Soho Seasonal” even though the restaurant is located in Chinatown. Regardless of this rather silly moniker, what this translates to is well-executed, seasonally-driven fare. There are apps like crispy pork belly with stone fruits and spring lettuces ($12), ricotta gnocchi with pine nuts and artichokes ($12/19), and chilled tomato soup with opal basil ($9) and entrees like roasted chicken with white potatoes and baby fennel ($19), and Cedar River Farms sirloin with cipollini and zucchini ($26). It’s nothing wildly creative, but it&r ... [more, click below]

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