Lower East Side is probably where you need to head over for a lot of exciting cooking in NYC at the moment. Combine youthful vibe of neighborhood and relatively cheaper rent than other neighborhoods, and LES is really an ideal background for young and aspiring chefs to display their craft. One such restaurant that has been under my radar since its opening was Lowlife, a seasonal new-American restaurant from young chef Alex Leonard, who spent his time at the critically acclaimed Blanca in Brooklyn. I finally made a visit to the restaurant this past weekend where I saw at the kitchen counter and enjoyed most of the dishes that were coming out while watching the kitchen staff in action.
There are a lot of subtle yet elegant surprises with dishes from the rather concise menu of Lowlife. You would be very pleased with the scoop of borscht, trout roe and raw cream. A combination of cream and beet (for the borscht) with trout roe would do very well to whet your appetite. I was also a fan of herring an sardine that came with pine nut and chimichurri sauce on top, although a stronger hint of chimichurri might’ve done even more wonders.
Guinea hen that came with bread sauce, baby carrots and mustards was ground into sausage form, and I was impressed with the silky smooth texture of the meat and the overall balance of flavor. It was more delicate than a typical sausage you would think of, and that wasn’t really a bad thing as I quickly devoured this dish. Chicken yakitori with scallion and smoked cabbage (available in both half and whole portion) was also another winner; it certainly tasted better than most other Japanese yakitori places, with very nicely cooked chicken and the smoky flavor that was right on point. The desserts also more or less delivered but I think even more commitment to simplicity could’ve made them even better. I enjoyed every scoop of raw milk (although I wasn’t sure why they would need cranberry compote underneath when the raw milk itself was already more or less perfect), and apple tart with dulce de leche was also delightful save for the hint of ginger that I thought over-complicated the dish.
The restaurant has a surprisingly large number of wine, and you would certainly enhance your dining experience with a glass or two. Getting a reservation wasn’t particularly challenging, and it was a fairly quiet night on Sunday (but by no means empty). I felt the service overall was friendly, but there was some sort of “We’re the cool kids” attitude that permeated my server’s attitude, which I didn’t mind that much since the food was still good. The restaurant’s dining area was larger than I thought it would be, but the modern trendy vibe would serve any young, hip crowd well. Lowlife is another welcome addition to LES dining scene, and I would really like to see how the kitchen evolves over time.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 178 Stanton Street, New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (212) 257-0509