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Double Crown

The urban tropics, Malaysia by way of the Bowery.

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316 Bowery, at Bleecker St., (212) 254-0350
Mon.-Thur., 6 p.m.-midnight; Fri.-Sat., 6 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sat.-Sun. brunch, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

CUISINE: Fusion.
VIBE: Hip Bowery eatery.
OCCASION: First date, festive group dinner.
DON’T-MISS DISH: Duck steam bun, sea bream sashimi, Singapore laksa.
AVERAGE PRICE: Appetizers, $14; entrees, $25; dessert, $10.
RESERVATIONS: Accepted.

In the right kind of restaurant, eating out reminds you that you
belong to a social world, something larger than yourself. Maybe it’s
the gentle haze of conversation, the buzz at the bar, or the music
thumping in the background. There’s a pulse, something electric in the
energy darting about the room.

How do you create that feeling? In
the case of Double Crown, down in the Bowery, it was designed right
into the restaurant. It is owned and run by AvroKo, a design company
that has created three other restaurants in the city. They practically
invented butcher-shop chic at Quality Meats. At Public, they opened
what looks like a big, sexy library serving Australasian food. And the
Stanton Social is now a landmark of lower East Side swank.

There’s
something very alive about Double Crown. That’s what I like most about
it – the red neon lights in the corner, the subtle hum of the ceiling
fans twirling overhead, turned round and round by a leather belt. Or
maybe it’s the Hindu screens propped up just so against the wall, or
the warm, worn-in teak wood tables, or the imperfectly hung white
panels in the dining room. Double Crown creates a fiction – the urban
tropics, Malaysia by way of the Bowery. And they’ve hired a production staff to make the
fiction feel real. There’s a wine director and a cocktail director.
From the look of the crowd, there might even be a casting director.

In a room this lively you can’t pay too much attention to the food.
And at Double Crown, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The simple
dishes here work well – duck steam buns, crispy whitebait, and wild
boar bangers and mash. I would even return for the sea bream sashimi
and its smoky bonito vinegar dressing. Or the Singapore laksa – a wonderful green tea noodle soup with crab, bean sprouts, and a spiced coconut broth.

But this isn’t a restaurant given to simplicity. Where else would you find pheasant and licorice pie or wet pigs in a blanket?

Nobody
wants to be in a wet blanket. Not even a pig. But out it comes stuffed
into the center of a lychee fruit with a coconut dipping sauce. Pickled
watermelon rind isn’t a bad thing. But when you mix it with fresh
watermelon and cilantro, it ruins everything that’s good about
watermelon.

The food at Double Crown is all over the map.
Sometimes worlds collide right on your plate. One night, I had the
venison Wellington. The venison itself was perfectly pan-seared. The
hard part was unwrapping it. The meat in Beef Wellington is usually
wrapped in pastry, mushrooms and perhaps a little foie gras.

But
at Double Crown, the packaging is much more complicated – mushrooms,
cabbage, mustard, a crepe, puff pastry, red currant jus and cranberry
chutney. How does it taste? Like a British riff on Thanksgiving. Your
tongue doesn’t know where to begin. That’s the trouble of eating in a
fantasy food world.

Brad Farmerie proved he can cook at Public, where he unites Australia, Asia and Africa under a single roof. He proves he can cook here, too, as long as he keeps it simple.

But he has been led astray by exoticism. The secret at Double Crown is to order simply and enjoy the crowd.

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