On Friday, I managed to get myself out of bed and my house in this dreadfully cold, white, and snowy morning. When I heard that it’s going to snow for the past several days, I was thinking it’s just an inch or two, no biggie. Except when I stepped out of my door it looked like this…
As I trudged myself through the now slushy sidewalks of Manhattan to work, I almost felt inclined to cancel my dinner with Ariel at Merkato 55. Except I didn’t just because I don’t want to suffer another uneventful weekend at home, so I called him around lunchtime and confirmed our dinner and other activities that I will explain later.
As we were seated on the second floor, this spacious, dark wooden paneled floors with an African theme (colonial maps and portraits) looks a bit – “Disney-fied.” The diners among us are the usual Meatpacking District crowd – women wearing teetering, stiletto heels who are going to drink and dance the night away, Europeans, young couples, and people like Ariel and I, who are trying out this place out of curiosity since there’s so much press about this place.
Being the indecisive people that we are, we took nearly ten minutes deciding what to try out in the Kidogo section of the menu. Since there’s foie gras chutney and Ariel’s a foie gras lovin’ kind of guy, it’s a default for us to try that. I’m always up for innards, so I wanted to try the dullet spiced tripe. We thrown in the African breads since it’s different than the typical bread we eat, after asking our waitress what’s in this particular bread basket.
The Dullet Spiced Tripe was considered a special on the Kidogo menu, but I was hesitant that the $10 price tag would justify a pretty small portion. But it’s delicious – spicy, tender chunks of tripe, leaving a slight warmth on the palate. I just wish there was more of it.
The foie gras chutney was mixed in with chunks of dried figs and served with a few slices of pita bread. As much as I love foie gras, I don’t exactly love since I thought the figs were a bit too sweet for the foie but it gave it an interesting chewy, crunchy texture.
As for the small pot of African bread, we were served two of each – the Benne and the Za’tar, and a single chunk of Meali. The Benne bread had a nutty, buttery scent since it’s slathered with melted butter. The Za’tar which basically a white bread brushed with melted butter and sprinkled densely with za’tar was fine. Nothing exactly remarkable about it but it tasted good. Ariel just prefer this particular carb just because he’s familiar with the spices. And finally, the Meali was a savory-sweet cornbread with little nuances of a certain pepper…which I can’t really recall but I remember seeing flecks of red and green floating around. It’s good as well but it doesn’t exactly scream “African” to me.
The oysters with harissa mignonette and melon granite was quite delicious. My hesitancy to say it’s the best oyster on the half shell it’s because the mignonette was quite subdued. The cold, slightly sweet, melon granite took over the silky texture and delicate flavors of the oyster. As Ariel had told me when he tried it, “It’s too icy.” which I agree.
The grilled piri piri shrimp with baby Romaine lettuce was quite good. We were served three huge, sweet prawns slathered in a tasty, mildly spicy sauce that is meant to get your hands dirty for. The large head of the shrimp was a bit of a task to suck out its contents but it’s worth the effort.
I wanted to try the chicken doro wat mainly because I’ve read from NY Magazine about this particular dish, despite the fact that Ariel questioned me why on Earth would I order chicken stew? Is it worth it’s time on the spotlight? Well, I do have to say this stewed chicken was somewhat interesting. It’s something about having slightly spicy chicken being served with cottage cheese (that’s the white splotches on the photo) as part of the sauce. It gave it a tang and creaminess to the dish. The chicken (a thigh and drumstick served) was cooked ’til it’s fork tender and melts in my mouth. The injera bread wasn’t as tangy as I expected. The tang is more like a subtle aftertaste rather than something very brusque and in your face.
After finishing our chicken and the plates were cleared, our waitress asked us if we wanted dessert? We took a look at the menu and Ariel’s interested in the avocado shake. I didn’t really want to eat dessert (I know – it’s a shocker), just because I felt full. Ariel chimed in, “Just pick a dessert. I’ll help you out. ” Despite my resistance, I picked an African inspired flavored donut.
Ariel’s avocado shake was presented originally as a glass filled with a creamy, white blob of coconut. Then the server emptied out the contents from a short stainless steel vessel, showing the viscous, lime green puree of avocado. Since I was intrigued by how this shake taste like (and I never drank an avocado shake before), I grabbed my spoon, stirred the contents slightly and got myself a heaping spoon. It was delicious – cool, creamy, coconutty with a hint of avocado flavor and lime? I detected something citrusy on the background when I thought about the flavors on my tongue. Now I know what I’m missing out, after reading Robyn‘s multiple posts about her love for avocado shakes.
As for my donuts (which I forgot the African name they dubbed this concoction), it’s not bad. The little donuts were warm, filled with creamy, coconutty custard, tossed in a sugary coating. The citrus dip that accompanied it contrasted out the nuttiness of the coconut. It’s not cloyingly sweet and it’s quite light. The problem was the fact that they’re a bit soggy and it doesn’t exactly tell my palate that these fried balls of sweet dough are African influenced.
We asked for the check and left the restaurant a little past 8 PM. Strangely, this place wasn’t as packed as we expect any Meatpacking District place would be on a Friday night. But since it did snow and at that time – chilly and drizzling – probably it wasn’t the best time to go out. However, we went on with the planned activities and walked all the way to the Lower East Side to Crash Mansion. Yes, somehow I felt inclined to go out clubbing that day, which was a rarity in itself.
After walking over there, the bouncer told us that we’re too early for our particular party since I was on a specified list. So, Ariel and I just wandered around the Lower East Side. As we walked out west, Ariel stopped near a steam pipe and was amused by the steady stream of hot air puffing out of that pipe. I paused and thought about what he’s talking about and we thought about the old noir films – the mysteriousness of the fog; we took a few photos, as you’ll see below, and had a kick out of it.
Eventually we went over to Allen Street and came across this humorous sign that’s nearby People Lounge & Restaurant, then we entered in.
Ariel chose this place because he heard of it before. As for my knowledge, I never heard of this place except for its next door neighbor Rayuela. But I’m willing to try their drinks anyway.
Crowded with mostly the younger college-aged kids throwing their party, a smaller, quieter party nearby them, and the loud party blasting the music upstairs, this lounge/restaurant doesn’t exactly make me feel like I want to hang around here. Also, there wasn’t much to look at. As most of you might know, I’m not a drinker just because my alcohol tolerance is so low that once I’m past two drinks, I’m out for the night. But since Ariel already ordered a drink and said to the bartender, “The lady would like…” that cue left me no choice but to pick a drink that seems interesting.
Ariel had the lychee mojito (on the right, in the photo) and I had the pomerita (on the left, in the photo). My drink somehow was stronger tasting with the booze factor than Ariel’s, and his was more sweeter since there’s lychee nectar in his drink.
After we finished our drinks, we walked back to Crash Mansion and got another round of drinks since it’s an open vodka bar and listened to the band who’s playing at that hour.
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the band’s name since the head singer said it 100 mph! I did like their music though. Anyways, after bopping our heads and feet to the beat for an hour, the fun had to come to an end for me. Awwwww. I bid Ariel goodnight and I walked my slightly tipsy self into the subway station, passed out in the train ride home and eventually I got into my warm, cozy bed. Ah, sleep. How I love thee…
55 Gansevoort Street
New York, NY 10014
People’s Lounge & Restaurant
163 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002