Monday, January 14, 2013

Our Favorite Restaurant of 2012: Smallwares

Thank you everyone for your kind words and comments. We are feeling much better. Mike said the other day that this time after the holidays can be tough because "this is our life for awhile" no holidays, no big celebrations and no big travel plans in the near future, but we are making the most out of this time and it's amazing how a little bit of sunshine can help elevate our mood. 

We're back to doing what we enjoy the most, eating! And here is our declaration for our favorite restaurant of 2012 - Smallwares! It shouldn't be much of a surprise as Joanna Wares once worked for famous inauthentic Asian Food Pioneer David Chang. Her unique take on Asian food floored us the first time we visited her restaurant in the summer and won our unyielding love upon our return later in the fall. But there is something going on, during our first visit in the summer we were seated next to a red room divider wall and as the sun set it cast a red shadow on all the photos. The second time we visited I forgot to replace the SD card in my camera and this most recent return I had accidentally switched the vibration control off on my lens which meant capturing all the low lit dishes was tough, but try I did!

Smallwares is a bit on the spendy side, but totally worth it. We'd suggest you try this place quick, within the last 9 months we had seen Smallwares go from a few tables here and there to full on packed by 8pm. They recently opened up a bar in the back called Barwares which is a darker and cozier option. Oh, and the cocktails are fantastic - garam masala syrup & rye whiskey anyone?

{Barwares - situated right behind Smallwares}

{Red, white and black decor of Smallwares}

Scallop Sashimi
{Scallop Sashimi with aji amarillo, lychee, pink peppercorn - the delicate texture of the scallops, the sweetness of the lychee fruit, the aji & pink peppercorn sauce was delectable, terrific combo}

Octopus Salad
{Octopus, pumpkin, miso, radish, pine nuts, sesame, chili - after only 2 bites Mike declared this the best salad he has ever had. The Octopus was incredibly tender and added a ingenious texture to the mildly bitter greens and nutty flavors of the pine nuts, sesame and pumpkins. I dream of this salad daily}

Cobb Salad
{Cobb Salad - this salad came with a tempura boiled egg! Seriously, a deep fried boiled egg! The sambal dressing was pungent and totally different from any other dressing we've had on this traditional cobb salad. Again, totally dream- and drool-worthy}

Tempura Kale
{Tempura Kale, candied bacon, fish sauce and mint - we have probably told everyone we know about this dish. We had it the first time we visited and every time since. So insanely good}

Mapo Dofu
{Smallwares version of Mapo Tofu - the silky smooth tofu, the black bean gravy, the fragrant chili oil - oh my! The only time we've had a better version of this dish was in Kyoto, Japan}

Oxtail Curry
{Oxtail Curry, Scotch bonnet, plantain chips, coconut - the insane scotch bonnet sauce brought the kick to this curry. Earthy and comforting, a delectable curry dish we only dare try in Jamaica, but Smallwares came close to the oxtail soup we had in Kingston}

Somen  Noodles
{Somen noodles, chili paste, sesame, fried egg, hijiki - flavorful, is the best description. The thoroughly dressed noodles packed a huge amount of chili (not heat) punch}

We also (re)tried the dashi poached egg, trout roe and mustard greens, but didn't capture a good image. And as with everything else we ate that night - it was terrific!

The portions are Asia-fied (read: small) but packs a ton of flavor and is worthy of the size. Smallwares is simply a restaurant that speaks to the kind of food we like, not necessarily a re-invention of traditional Asian food, but a whole new take that we hope is the direction Asian food is headed because it is that good! One small quibble is Joanna seems to be a typical American chef who likes pungent = salty food and so the use of sambal and chilis is a great way to obtain that flavor without it tasting just salty, but a calculated use of sugar or a sweetener is our only recommendation. We know it goes against American convention, but something a little sweet is simply used in all Asian dishes.

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