Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

WILDAIR, 142 Orchard Street (between Rivington and Delancey Street), Lower East Side

It’s been a while since we’ve been out for a moderately priced hip New York restaurant. We’ve been sticking to cheaper take-out options. But it was time to splurge (at least a little bit) and we smartly chose Wildair, which has won all sorts of acclaim since it opened earlier this year.

A few doors down is Contra (another cutting-edge restaurant that’s high on my list), which is the tasting menu spot of chefs Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske. It’s an affordable option (as tasting menus go) at $67, but Wildair is their more accessible (read: slightly cheaper) wine and small plates bar. So we started there.

Since I’m not a huge wine guy (I know, I’ve just lost some foodie cred), we stuck to making a dinner out of their menu of small plates. If you just look at the name for each item, it looks like any old gastropub (fried squid, salads, bread and olive oil), but when you start reading the descriptors, you know you are in for a much more innovative culinary experience.

That fried squid was in fact gluten-free, breaded with a potato and masa flour mixture. Along with squid, lemon rinds and green onions are breaded and fried to a light, puffy texture (sort of like tempura) and served with a black ink garlic aioli. It was revelatory. Also, amazing was the bright sea bass ceviche with strips of pickled pineapples and pine nuts for texture.

Beef Tartare at WILDAIR

And then there was their reinterpretation of the standard steak tartare. Delicate grinds of raw beef are topped with an array of confounding flavors that work perfectly together. Along with some spicy oil, cunchy buckwheat groats and beautiful herbs, a bed of white shavings complements it. What are the shavings? It’s a mixture of zippy horseradish, earthy chestnuts, and a brilliant addition of sharp white cheddar cheese.

While cheaper takeout options are great (especially on the wallet), I miss being blown away by some amazing flavor combinations among a sea of trendy foodie people. But the truth is, not all those over-hyped places are as satisfying as Wildair.

WILDAIR
142 Orchard Street (between Delancey and Rivington Street),
Lower East Side
(646) 964-5624
wildair.nyc
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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