“Cherrywood, by Guest Reviewer Dara Pollak”
May 14, 2013
Cherrywood Kitchen should be busier. It’s a relatively new spot in Soho with a pleasant vibe, an incredibly friendly staff, an inviting marble bar serving strong drinks, and a terrific (if eclectic) menu heavy on smoked meat dishes courtesy of executive chef Chris Cheung, a fellow coming off of stints at Nobu and Jean Georges. The house baked bread with whipped blue cheese is reason enough to visit. So why wasn’t this restaurant even remotely packed? I’m still unsure of that one, to be honest, because I thought the food was actually quite good.
Caramelized duck wings, braised bacon soup ($11), and cherry glazed ribs are stand outs on a menu that also includes East Coast oysters ($14), salmon head salad ($12), garlic and shallot soft shell crabs ($27), and my personal favorite, fresh killed chicken ($29). Yes, they actually call it that on the menu, much to my chagrin. We mentioned that they might want to remove that verb, but the staff stood by this decision; it’s not like they’re lying, right? But did they just kill it? Like in the kitchen before roasting it? Do they enlist diners to pluck its feathers? I feel like this is just slight overkill (excuse the pun).
In addition to freshly killed, most of the meat is smoked on cherrywood (hence the name), and it is quite good. The duck wings were smoky, sweet, and fall off the bone tender – the skin too was crunchy and salty - highly recommended as an appetizer ($7). If for some reason you want to steer clear of meat, you can certainly opt for the lobster tacos served inside crunchy shells. It’s good lobster, but the kitchen skimps on portions and at that size, they seem expensive at $14.
Bacon is pretty ubiquitous at this point and I thought I'd seen everything. Apparently not though, because at Cherrywood, they have braised bacon soup ($11). But rest assured, bacon belongs in soup just as much as it does as a wrapper for trout or a topper for a burger. It makes everything better.
The Hot Cherrywood smoked ribs with sweet chili glaze and apple slaw ($29) was a divisive dish. I thought they were really tasty: sweet, slightly spicy and sticky exterior, smoky and tender meat on the inside. My friend thought the glaze was too sweet and tasted medicinal. You’ll have to decide for yourself. Sticking with the tradition of meat, we also tried the Wagyu ribeye steak ($46), served sliced thin and drizzled with a mint and shallot, with a steakhouse-worthy side of potato-crusted spinach. At medium rare, it melted in my mouth.
For fun, have the French fry “ends” with bacon crumble ($7). File this one under the greatest frat-style foods ever. But here’s the brilliant part: you don’t have to be drunk to enjoy it. However, if you choose to get drunk, you can easily do so at the bar with one or two of their cocktails, particularly the Vodka Cider (Grey Goose, Cointreau, apple cider, $12) and the Gimlet (Hendrick’s Gin, cucumber, lime, $12). But I digress. What are French fry “ends”? Exactly what they sound like: the extra crispy and crunchy parts of the French fry, cut into squares, almost like a brunoise, and topped with this bacon-breadcrumb mixture. Brilliant.
Between the acclaimed chef, the dark red Cherrywood interior, and most importantly, the food, I still was very surprised by the lack of patrons in the restaurant. The area lends itself well to the sophisticated and trendy crowd, and in the beginning of the night I saw a few business-casual types hanging at the bar. Maybe it was an off night? Regardless, I told at least three people about the meal the following day and everyone said they’d like to try it, so hopefully this was just a fluke and Cherrywood will pick up the attention it deserves.
Cherrywood Kitchen is located at 300 Spring Street, 646-559-2328.