Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lunch at Whym on a Whim

When Glen and I first moved into our neighborhood, it was known as "Hell's Kitchen."  Friends would say, "Wow, you're braving moving into an apartment west of 8th Avenue."  We were young, naive, and on a budget. Plus, we were in a doorman building, on a high-traffic street, close to bus and subway stops. We thought we'd stay for a few years and then trade-up.  Before we got around to it, our neighborhood changed. The Time Warner Center opened at Columbus Circle, the Hudson River Park was developed on the west side of Manhattan, and 9th Avenue became a restaurant mecca.

At first, it felt like the restaurants in the theater district (Restaurant Row) were giving birth to new restaurants that catered to the bridge-and-tunnel crowd and out-of-towners coming to the City to see Broadways shows.  But that's all changed -- the restaurants along 9th avenue from 44th street to 58th street all have a neighborhood feel.  If you walk down the 9th avenue, most of the places are packed every night between 8-10:30 (obviously not theater goers!) and if you look closely, you'll see some regulars.  When I tell people I live nearby, they all want to tell me about their favorite places to dine: Puttanesca, Bello, Eatery, Lime Jungle, to name just a few.  The food served is as diverse as NYC -- Italian, Mexican, Indian, Japanese -- you name it, you can find it.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, we decided to stop in for lunch at Whym, which is one of those lovely neighborhood spots, catering to locals as well as a diverse pre/post theater crowd. The website describes the offerings as American "comfort food", but I think it's a little more diverse than that.  Kate ordered two appetizers for lunch, since she couldn't decide on one main course. The "teapot dumplings" were just spicy enough to give an edge, and anything with shrimp is a must for her.  And the spinach pesto flatbread was practically a meal in itself, with shallots, roasted tomatoes and goat cheese. I wouldn't consider either of them "American comfort food" but Kate liked having two such diverse items, and declared them both delicious.

Dash went for his favorite -- the Whym sirloin burger, this one on a brioche roll with hand-cut french fries. He said that it was the best burger he'd ever had, which is saying a lot, since Dash would rather eat a burger than anything else.  He said we could tell it was the best since he finished it before starting on his french fries.  Ah, to be 12 again!

I love a good cobb salad, and Whym's didn't disappoint.  I was served a lovely bed of romaine lettuce, topped with grilled chicken, egg whites, tomatoes and gorgonzola cheese, with a lovely white wine vinaigrette for flavor.

For dessert, Dash went for the Whym version of apple pie -- apple pie spring rolls, with vanilla bean gelato and caramel sauce.  If you like fried apple pie, then this is for you. Enough said.

We also shared the Stuffed Puff Pastry with mixed berry compote and whipped marscapone cheese.  It was light and flavorful, and did remind me of mixed berry pie.

Our only mistake was arriving at 1 pm on matinee day -- the restaurant was pretty packed, and it took a while to get our food. I think the kitchen was trying to get everyone out who had a matinee.  Our waiter was attentive, though, and when Dash asked for an extra cherry in his Shirley Temple, the waitress brought him a half-dozen of them. I think he fell in love with her on the spot.

We've eaten at Eatery, the more upscale sister restaurant down the street, but this was a nice change of pace.  Whym has been recently remodeled and expanded to accommodate all the neighborhood regulars, and the menu is broader than on our last visit.  All in all, we had a lovely Saturday afternoon, hanging out in our neighborhood, having a good meal with family.

If you're ever in our neighborhood...