eGustibus

A +/- Look at NYC Food

5 Ninth

As you may know from an earlier post, Zac Pelacio's Fatty Crab is my *FAVORITE* restaurant in New York, so it goes with out saying I was super excited to be going to dinner at 5 Ninth, his flagship restaurant.  Situated in the Meatpacking District, the restaurant is located in a 3 story unmarked brownstone, with no sign- it's name taken from the address of the restaurant.  If you weren't looking for this place, you'd never know it was there- which makes it cool right?  You've gotta be in the know- and that makes you feel special!  Already off to a good start… unless you can't find the place, get lost and miss your reservation.  Then you feel lame, and pissed, and wonder why these stupid Brooklyn transplants couldn't have just put a fucking sign on the door like everyone else.

Compared to most of the "hip" Meatpacking Restaurants, this place is pretty casual but in a calculated, I'm better then you kind of way.  The bartender is one of those "cocktail chefs", or whatever they call them, so there is a menu of interesting mixed drinks which are one or two bucks more expensive then they would be if it was from a normal bartender (I mean he is a chef for god sake!).  The friends we were meeting had ordered one of the cocktails, which they did not like- and I gladly took off their hands, and enjoyed.  The cocktails are all pretty interesting, and at 12-14 bucks a pop are still on par for the neighborhood.

As far as attitude when we entered, it's in the Meatpacking district!  It comes with the territory.  If you don't want to be condescended to by a host, or kept waiting 20 minutes after your reservation time while somone more important gets seated ahead of you without reservations- DON'T EAT IN THE MEATPACKING DISTRICT ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.  I've heard alot of complaints like "Would they have treated me like that if I was Robert DeNiro?"… well you're not Robert DeNiro- and if you were, you would definetely not want to kept waiting just so that some shmuck from the Upper West Side who heard that this place was "hip" could be seated at his correct reservation time. 

Now, don't get me wrong… I'm not condoning this behavior, and I will be the first one up at the front complaining that this is bullshit and we need to be seated.  But, when I do eat at one of these restaurants, I tend to give them a little more leeway then a restaurant that clearly prides itself on service.  Half the reason you go to restaurants like this is because they are considered "cool", right?  Well, there's a price to pay for cool.  You've been warned… no one's forcing you to eat there- and if it this type of thing really bothers you, I would definetely steer clear of this place- at least on a Friday or Saturday night.

Now on to the food… the most important part!  Right?  We were seated about 20 minutes after our reservation time (but before another party who had been there longer and were clearly very angry about being kept waiting- so that made us feel a little better)… and my excitement had not waned.  And therein lied the biggest problem for me.  My excitement… or as I have come to call it- the Babbo Curse.  I have come to realize that expectations play one of the largest parts in whether or not you enjoy a restaurant.  And my expectations for this place were big.  Fried pork with watermelon BIG Crab with Chili Sauce BIG .  And in that regard I was let down.  5 Ninth is refined new american with a Southeast Asian twist… Fatty Crab is twist-less.  It's more like a southest asian hammer to the skull.  That's not to say the food was not good…

What we ate, and the +/- after the jump…

Firsts

  • Shrimp and Chicken Salad w/ Smoky Tamarind Sauce, Grilled Eggplant, Chili, Sesame Seeds $12

  • Berkshire Pork Belly, Crispy and Glazed with Garlic Chili Paste, Candied Lime Zest $11

  • Heritage Foods Berskire Pork Ribs w/ Malay Glaze, Savoy Cabbage, Young Ginger $12

Now this guy is a genius with pork fat, so if you're into that I would definetely recommend it.  The fried pork belly is half meat, half fat and is all delicious.  The pork ribs were also delicious, with a sticky sweet glaze that makes you wish there were more on the plate.  As with alot of appetizers the flavors were bold and in your face, a contrast to the more refined main courses.

Mains

  • Hangar Steak Seared w/ Jasmine Rice, basil, sweet lemon, palm sugar chili pan sauce $25

  • Violet Hill Farm's Pork Shoulder Braised and steamed w/ mustard greens, vietnamese mint & spicy sausage $28

  • Red Snapper Fried w/ Chili, thai basil, salty sweet glaze & roast cabbage $25

  • Red Curry Duck Roasted and Braised w/ duck egg tempura, thai eggplant, pickled mustard seed $25

None of the main courses were bad, but none of them popped like the appetizers.  The Red Curry Duck was expertly prepared, and the duck egg tempura was fun and new.  Of course if you fry anything it's going to taste good.  The hanger steak was adequate, but the flavors were not as strong as I had hoped they would be (especially the palm sugar).  I enjoyed the bite of the fried red snapper I had, but the friend who ordered it was a little less enthusiastic about it.  Finally the pork shoulder was delicious, and probably my favorite dish of the four.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  I love pork.

Desserts

  • Banana Spring Rolls

  • Doughnuts

The desserts were forgettable.

Cocktails

  • Florodora, Tanqueray Gin, Lime Juice, Raspberry Syrup $12

FINAL WORD:  Fatty Crab is my favorite restaurant in the city, and 5 Ninth clearly suffered because of it.  If I had eated at this restaurant first, with no expecations about Zac Pelacio or how prevalent the southeast asian flavors would be in the dishes, I probably would have raved about the food.  But, I would probably recommend this place to more people then the Fatty Crab because it is a lot more accesible.

The +

  • You like your New American food peppered with Asian flavors
  • You like pork and pork fat
  • You don't mind the Meatpacking District and the attitude that comes with eating at most of it's hot restaurants

The –

  • You find yourself criticizing every Meatpacking District restaurant for the noise, bad service, and the fact that the Hostess appears to be much nicer to the guy in the $125 T-Shirt, with the model girlfriend wearing $400 jeans
  • You've eaten at Fatty Crab, and are expecting the same in your face Malaysian flavors… you should still like the meal, just keep your expectations low
  • You don't like paying a lot of money for food that may or not be considered Asian

Official Website

5 9th Ave (Btw Gansevoort & Little W 12th St), 212-929-9460   [map]

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February 18, 2006 - Posted by | Food: American (New), Food: Asian (New), Location: Meatpacking, Price: Expensive

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