EAT: The DL on the L.E.S.
95 Delancey Street
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 228-0909
In the trendy Lower East Side, a new speakeasy-ish bar/restaurant has revived the corner of Delancy and Ludlow Streets. The DL, short for “Down Low,” perhaps another reference to its location, serves tapas (small plates) late into the night (5 p.m. – 4a.m.). In Spain, consuming cocktails and tapas throughout the evening, often into the late late night, reflects a tapas culture of informality, conviviality and mobility; at the DL, this tapas culture seems to be the norm for the socially mobile.
On a lively Thursday night I stopped by and found the space lit low by elegant crystal chandeliers; framed in exquisite ironwork stretching along the wall and across the ceiling; inset by high leatherback banquets; populated by dark wood tables atop dark wood flooring. This elegant space is bordered by massive windows. These large windows allow the DL space to blur the line between the street and the bar-restaurant, and this blur makes for an interesting sense of liveliness yet relaxed inside.
Besides the space, the food also defies boundaries. What I found unique is how the chef blurred lines between classical French main dishes and small plates. A prime example: the Lobster Crack contains lobster claws poised atop a savory lobster and vermouth tarragon broth. The chef, Wesley Wobles, mastered such classics while apprenticing at haute Parisian restaurants for five years and in New York City; this experience shows in his execution of other dishes, and with this cosmopolitan experience, he offers a range of well-executed cuisines from sashimi to sliders to mac and cheese. For example, the Big Eye Tuna Poke (pronounced /Poke-ay/) is basically Hawaiian style sashimi. His is served with a Thai pesto and sticky rice. Sashimi is nothing new, but his pesto is. It is unique in its nimble zap of roasted Thai chili peppers that quickly diminishes due to a touch of vinegar that cleanses the heat off your palate without a trace of each. Try this because you take every bite anew, each fresh as the first.
His Ludlow Mac ‘n’ Cheese is offered in four divergent dimensions—with lobster, bacon, sharp cheddar and green apples, or truffles. My friend ventured towards the green apple and cheddar dimension, and we found it surprisingly toothsome: the baked sour green apples are transformed from sour to sweet by the creamy baked cheddar, giving the overall blend a sweet smack of mac.
Other small morsels were equally delicious: the Truffle (lolli) Pops and PB and J slider, for pork belly and jam. Evidently the chef has a linguistic side to him, because his punning can be found in other dishes. The truffle pops were basically risotto croquettes, packed with rich truffle flavor. The PB and J was double charred to caramelize the fat and, for me, this redefined sliders. To seal the deal, the Chocolate Pistachio Cake, densely rich, was finished with ganache and crushed pistachios. This dessert, along with the other small plates, reflects the chef’s turns in life—French classical training, Thai spices, American audacity—all of which could not be more fitting for this historical neighborhood known for mixing different cultures and their foods, thus conserving the more Delancy and Ludlow designation than down and low.