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Shorty's.32
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Shorty’s.32

Address: 199 Prince St., between MacDougal & Sullivan Sts. 

Phone: (212) 375-8275
Dinner: Sun., Tue. & Wed., 6 p.m.-12 a.m., Thu.-Sat., 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Closed
Mon.
Cuisine: New American
Vibe: Quaint neighborhood spot
Occasion: Casual date, neighborhood go-to dinner
Don’t Miss Dish: Codfish with Gruyere broth, roast chicken
Drink Specialty: Stargarita
Price: Appetizers, $7-$14; entrees, $18-$25; desserts, $5-$7
Reservations: Not accepted

Soho’s best-kept secret harbors a talented chef and a triumphant roast chicken.

“I’ll have the chicken,” is a request I’m hearing a lot lately in prominent New York City
restaurants. What was historically a predictable dish designated for
the unadventurous eater has recently become a first-string player on
many esteemed menus. Union Square Cafe has a moist rendition in their
back pocket. So does Cafe Boulud.

And then there’s the roast chicken at Shorty’s.32. Chef and co-owner Josh Eden
has nearly perfected his: This remarkably juicy bird flaunts an
obscenely crisp skin. It’s a notably unpretentious bird, coupled with
mashed potatoes and green beans. Though its presentation seems humble,
it’s abundantly rich in flavor.

This is Shorty’s.32 in a
nutshell: a straightforward restaurant with tremendously pleasing New
American fare. It is also SoHo’s best-kept secret. Nicknamed Shorty at
JoJo, Eden spent 12 years working in Jean-Georges Vongerichten‘s
stable of highbrow kitchens. With such upscale cred, one might expect
Shorty’s solo debut to razzle-dazzle with more sophistication than
chicken and mashed potatoes. He does dazzle with a decadent bed of
mashed potatoes and crunchy fries in golden coats. Though they look
like something off the children’s menu, pudgy crabsticks get a basil
remoulade – grownup fish sticks stocked with fresh, peekytoe crab.

Familiar
rock music plays in the background of a 32-seat dining room, furnished
with burgundy velvet banquettes and dark wood tables. An altogether
curious and unsightly collection of mismatched lampshades hangs from
the ceiling. Though his taste in light fixtures is questionable, Eden
has much better instincts when it comes to culinary marriages.

He
perches codfish on crusty bread with caramelized onions and Swiss
chard, then douses it in a gruyere broth. The spill of broth evokes a
“French onion soup” twist, an inventive match for the flaky fish.
Likewise, the aforementioned chicken gets a sidecar of chilled green
beans specked with fried garlic. It recalls leftover Chinese string
beans, an apparently intentional move. “Everyone loves leftover Chinese
take-out from the fridge,” Eden says during a telephone interview – a
plain and persuasive argument.

Braised pork belly is topped
with a vinegary cranberry bean salad that smartly tempers the fat. It’s
served chilled. Are you noticing a pattern here? Eden likes to play
with food’s thermostat: chilled cranberry beans and warm pork belly;
cold green beans and warm chicken. The most composed arrangement is a
pan-seared sea bass decorated with a neat line of quinoa and vibrant
mound of pickled beets. Both the slow braise of the pork belly and the
smart sear on the sea bass display Eden’s seasoned technique with
pleasurable effect.

There is the occasional misstep: grilled
shrimp paired with celery root logs, smothered in a heavy-handed
saucing of crème fraiche and Dijon mustard. Braised short ribs see an
unnecessary addition of honey, further burdened by a weighty side of
macaroni and cheese. Shorty’s cavatelli craves more than a bland
mushroom ragout and a few leaves of arugula.

Dessert also does
not measure up to the rest of the menu. A chocolate bread pudding
arrived burnt, and a listless apple tart layered with date puree
collapsed on one swoop of a fork. Too, crème brulée tasted more like
watery rice pudding with a caramelized shell.

Shorty’s.32 is
refreshingly simple. With humble determination, Eden succeeds at
pleasing the neighbors and triumphing with chicken.

“Everyone loves leftover Chinese
take-out from the fridge,” Eden says during a telephone interview – a
plain and persuasive argument.

Braised pork belly is topped
with a vinegary cranberry bean salad that smartly tempers the fat. It’s
served chilled. Are you noticing a pattern here? Eden likes to play
with food’s thermostat: chilled cranberry beans and warm pork belly;
cold green beans and warm chicken. The most composed arrangement is a
pan-seared sea bass decorated with a neat line of quinoa and vibrant
mound of pickled beets. Both the slow braise of the pork belly and the
smart sear on the sea bass display Eden’s seasoned technique with
pleasurable effect.

There is the occasional misstep: grilled
shrimp paired with celery root logs, smothered in a heavy-handed
saucing of crème fraiche and Dijon mustard. Braised short ribs see an
unnecessary addition of honey, further burdened by a weighty side of
macaroni and cheese. Shorty’s cavatelli craves more than a bland
mushroom ragout and a few leaves of arugula.

Dessert also does
not measure up to the rest of the menu. A chocolate bread pudding
arrived burnt, and a listless apple tart layered with date puree
collapsed on one swoop of a fork. Too, crème brulée tasted more like
watery rice pudding with a caramelized shell.

Shorty’s.32 is
refreshingly simple. With humble determination, Eden succeeds at
pleasing the neighbors and triumphing with chicken.

 

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