I’m not really a cider person. It is a bit too sweet for my taste and I prefer the stronger whiskey or the more complex wine when it comes to drinking. I did visit Wassail, a cider bar that opened last year, in Lower East Side once before; there were some cocktails too but the bar had a humongous list of ciders with flight options too. Would I visit this place again? I wasn’t sure at the time, since my alcohol preference didn’t match their central offerings, although I did like the casual, minimalist décor of the venue. Later, I found that Wassail is not just about ciders; they were serving vegetarian dishes that critics had reviewed with very positive notes. I was intrigued after hearing this and decided to come back sooner than I had imagined. Overall, I was very pleased with the creative direction of the dishes coming out from the kitchen.
The menu at Wassail is rather concise, but there were full of surprises. Jalapeno fritters would be a nice snack at any bar, and sunchoke toast with Brussels sprouts and smoked ricotta was also quite delicious, with all the ingredients working together very well. I could totally convert to a vegetarian if parsnip and apple soup that came with pecans, caramelized onions and brown butter were served on my table every day; it was just a delightfully elegant flavor that I couldn’t stop digging this dish.
Butternut squash pierogies (think ravioli pasta) with crème fraiche and caramelized onions turned to be a little too heavy (which seems impossible for a vegetarian dish, but it did happen), although there was something very addictive about celery root gratin with potato, smoked gouda and broccolini that made me keep digging this simple-looking dish even though I was starting to become quite full by then.
Desserts were also pleasant affairs. Chocolate pot de crème with Amaranth soil and beet-buttermilk sherbet had refined richness to the flavor without overpowering with sweetness, and apple upside down cake with cranberries and frozen goat yogurt was also a pleasant treat that looked like a pancake yet had surprising complexity to flavor and texture.
I had no problem getting a reservation for Sunday dinner, and the dining space seemed to be on the quieter side compared to the bar (after all, this is a bar) although people started filling up during the course of my meal. Wassail has the type of vibe that makes me love hanging out in Lower East Side where, so long as you are outside the clubby zones filled with young, drunk hipsters or college kids, there are a lot of cozy, neighborhood-type spaces. I already noted how I’m not the biggest cider fan, but do try a glass or two as the restaurant has ciders from seemingly everywhere in the world, with different flavor and acidity. Right now, New York City dining scene is sort of undergoing a vegetarian movement, and Wassail certainly deserves mention as one of the leaders in this movement, along with such pioneering restaurants like Semilla and Avant Garden.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: 162 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (646) 918-6835