The cocktails were terrific — never mind that they took 30 minutes to arrive. The food (which took even longer), not so much. On a normally sleepy Wednesday evening, the new Eat Street Social was buzzing, from its mega-bar to sea of closely-packed tables now filling the former Tacos Morelos space, remodeled in utility-chic. The din was astounding, as we shouted to our server. “It’s gonna get worse,” she counseled. (At least, that’s what I think she said.)
The bartender was backed up because he’d been displeased with his handiwork, tossed out the results, and started over. If only the kitchen had done the same.
From the list of starters ($10 range, including carpaccio, tartare, frites and mussels), we chose the odd couple of the lot, a combo of scallops and sweetbreads. The pair of shellfish proved huge and modestly sweet, and the luscious sweetbreads sautéed with a light hand. But the duo is presented upon a sea of apple butter, to which “What were they thinking?” is the first thing that came to mind, and palate. A dollop of sweet-tart kumquat marmalade fared far better to wake up, and complement, the plate.
Next, a generous spinach salad ($8), which I enjoyed because it’s just like the one I make at home: baby greens mined with savory pancetta crumbles and snowflakes of goat cheese in an unassuming balsamic vinaigrette.
From among the seven entrée selections ($15-20), we first shared the truffled gnocchi. The marbles of potato dough were suitably tender and visited with cross-sections of wild mushrooms, along with leeks and garlic, but the whole plate swam in an overkill of brown butter. Noooooooo! Messy, unattractive and just plain way too rich and greasy. Where’s a good cream or tomato sauce when you need it?
The pork duo also failed to unite, or ignite. Both renditions — pink slices of tenderloin and tasty bits of braised short ribs — were fine, but the roasted red pepper polenta cake aside them simply dull and dry. And the accompanying grilled mustard greens were so very salty that one bite was more than enough. Other entrees include duck breast, sirloin, poussin, and fish of the day.
The housemade desserts ($6) sounded good, from rum baba to rosemary panna cotta and chocolate-olive oil layer cake with coffee semifreddo, to our choice: the bacon shortbread. How could we not order that, I ask you? The biscuit itself was, true to its word, pocked with bacon bits, and topped with a lovely maple whipped crème fraiche. It rested on a compote of huckleberries and a knot of candied orange zest. Tasty, but over the top; I’d eliminate one of the players (take your pick) for a more concentrated success. Or go for the cocktails on the dessert list, clearly the café’s forte.
I’ve loved its elder sibling, the Northeast Social Club, so came with high hopes. And left with hopes that things might shape up in the future.
Eat Street Social
18 W. 26th St.