Just say ‘oui’

OUIBar + KTCHN's dining room. Submitted photo

Millennials, here is a restaurant (and hotel) just for you that the rest of us can just as ardently embrace.

The Radisson Red hotel in East Town is the first of the hotel chain’s new concept in the U.S. and only the second in the world (Brussels beat us to it). And OUIBar + KTCHN is clearly not your daddy’s hotel restaurant.

“No $35 ribeye — no steaks at all — on the menu,” declares Curator (Red-speak for GM) Ryan Foley with pride.

Instead, small, share-able plates preside, featuring lead cook (vet of Saffron and Travail) Wil Vonmondel’s KISS approach: “simple, light and healthy, quick and easy” favorites Millennials grew up with. That translates to tater tots, trail mix, grilled cheese — and, oh yeah, a burger — his, however, a blend of beef and mushrooms on a brioche-style bun served with (of course) kale but without ketchup, mustard or mayo, a deliberate decision.

It’s the star of the short and sweet menu (12 items, ultra-affordable at $4–$12) plus a quartet of tasty snacks ($4–$6) including duck-fat popcorn (yum), trail mix starring bacon (yum again), a bite-size version of that burger and vegan croquettes — on this visit, quick-fried balls of paella rice, presented atop a ribbon of parsley aioli whose “secret sauce” ingredient is a potent, welcome, burst of heat.

Back to those tater tots: OUIBar + KTCHN’s version — quick-sautéed, non-greasy — meats them up with bits of ham plus a side of bacon ketchup (what took the world so long?) and another of suave, understated Gouda cheese sauce.

Just as easy to love are the British street tacos, certainly another first in the realm of food marriages: fish and chips in tiny taco shells. The beer-battered cod, supremely fresh and dressed in a drizzle of vinegar aioli, goes down easily. It shares shell space with a couple of potato chips (weird but wonderful).

Oui’s spring roll is fresh and crunchy: mint, Thai basil and cilantro seasoning veggies in the customary wrapper, ready to sluice through a spicy teriyaki sauce. Standard, straight up and fine. So’s the beet salad: the usual chunks of sweet beets paired with a few leaves of arugula and frittered marbles of creamy goat cheese, served with baubles of cranberry essence.

Then consider (you’ll hate yourself later if you don’t) the chicken ’n’ waffle sandwich — a slight revision of that Southern staple featuring perhaps the best crunch-coated, ultra-juicy fried chicken of your life, settled between segments of Belgian waffle loaded with a “Bourbon-maple glaze” (read: syrup). Finger food supreme.

No room for the grilled cheese, nor the burrito, but you bet I’ll be back — lured, also, by the drinks options: a limited but impossibly affordable list of beer ($6), wine BTG ($7–$11) and cocktails ($8; I can vouch for the Red Smash, showcasing Bulleit bourbon). That’s right: no typos. Or missteps.

In this playroom setting of white tables, yellow chairs, lipstick-red banquettes against glass walls and flamboyant murals (crows rule!), servers in lumberjack checks aim to please. And they do. Stop for a round of pingpong in the lobby on your way out.


609 3rd St. S.