Friday, December 2, 2011

The Stanton Social

There are a lot of things to love about New York (and a good number not to love), but my favorite part is undoubtedly the food. The number of outstanding and unique restaurants is mind-blowing, and I am quite confident that I will never be able to try them all even if I make it my life’s mission. Considering the wide array of restaurants, my family and I generally like to try new places, so it is quite a compliment when we return to a restaurant for the second time. This weekend, we paid that compliment to the Stanton Social, an eclectic tapas restaurant in the Lower East Side.

The restaurant itself is rather chic, or as my brother called it hipster, and according to the restaurant website, its design is supposed to pay tribute to the Lower East Side’s past as the heart of the garment industry. Most of the tables are round – all the better for sharing plates – and the walls are lined with circular booths which I find to be quite comfortable as well as stylish. When it comes down to it, however, the design is little more than a side note. This restaurant is all about the food.

As I mentioned, the Stanton Social is tapas style, so it has a menu full of small plates that are meant to be shared. Our server recommended that we choose two to three per person. Luckily, there were five of us, so we had the ability to make lots of choices from the amazing menu on which just about everything sounds delicious. The waitress was also very accommodating in offering to scale all the dishes to the size of our group so that each dish had at least five pieces. After some serious deliberation, we settled on an order that I had the task of memorizing and reciting to the waitress. It was a matter of life and death to make sure that no dish was forgotten.

Before long, the constant flow of plates began. We started with the Baby Spinach Salad and the Red Snapper Tacos. The spinach salad was served with smoked goat cheese and spiced nuts and had a great smoky flavor. Even my brother, who doesn’t like spinach, enjoyed it. The snapper tacos were also tasty. The snapper was mixed with avocado, which gave it a creamy texture similar to a very upscale tuna fish salad. The tacos were then topped with spicy mango salsa. Although I found the salsa to be a bit spicy, my dad declared the tacos to be one of his favorite dishes.

Next came the French Onion Soup Dumplings, which are a signature dish of the restaurant and probably one of my favorites. Although the name sounds a bit puzzling, the dumplings are exactly as described. They are crispy dumplings, shaped a bit like donut holes, that are covered in cheese and filled with onion soup.

After the dumplings, came Potato and Goat Cheese Pierogies, which were delicious as well although not particularly unusual. Next, we got a Grilled Apple and Brie Quesadilla that was perfectly crispy with melted cheese dripping out the sides and crumbled bacon sprinkled on top. As I am a fan of fruit with cheese and particularly fruit with brie, this is a dish that couldn’t go wrong.

Next, we had Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Ravioli – a mouthwatering combo of tender pasta, smooth and flavorful filling, and a browned butter sauce. Like any recipe that includes sweet potato or squash, it found a special place in my heart. Additionally, the Stanton Social distinguished their ravioli with a very unique seasoning, but although I wish I could say what it was, none of us was able to figure it out.

Next (yes, the courses do keep coming), we had a Wild Mushroom Pizzetta (little pizza) and roasted beets. I have a soft spot for mushrooms as well, so the Pizzetta won me over. It also had a thin New York crust that put the pizza around Philadelphia to shame. Topped with cheese, the roasted beets made a delicious accompaniment.

For our second to last course, we had Braised Short Rib Soft Tacos, which were undoubtedly my favorite of the two types of tacos. They were served with a fairly simple tomato relish, but the meat was so tender and juicy that no additional flair was needed. Finally, we ended our savory courses with Thai Spiced Baby Back Ribs. Like everything else we tried, the ribs were good, and the meat fell right off the bone.

After finishing out whirlwind tour through all the savory dishes, it was time for dessert. Since our first visit to the Stanton Social last summer, my dad has not stopped talking about their warm doughnuts, which are large poofs of dough, coated in sugar and served with chocolate, caramel, and raspberry dipping sauces. My dad insisted on ordering two plates of warm doughnuts and concluded that they tasted just as good as he had remembered. While I agree that the doughnuts are good, I actually enjoyed the other two desserts that we chose even more. For one, we ordered a pumpkin sundae that had pumpkin pie ice cream, toasted nut streusel, and cinnamon whipped cream. Generally, I avoid ice cream at restaurants and favor the cakes and other carb desserts, but the sundae was amazing. The ice cream, with a strong pumpkin and spice flavor, was truly unique and was layered with generous amounts of scrumptious streusel. The final dessert we ordered was actually another ice cream dish –peanut butter bon bons. The rich peanut butter ice cream was covered in a layer of dark chocolate and playfully paired with grape sorbet. Yum!

From start to finish, the Stanton Social provides a fun and delicious experience. It’s exciting to be able to try so many dishes rather than just having to choose one, and after two amazing dining experiences, I am confident in saying that at the Stanton Social, you can’t go wrong.

Photos courtesy of The Stanton Social

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