Friday, April 1, 2011

NYC Foodies Find a Secret Downtown Lair

By: Anne M. Raso

Finance Foodie recently took a trip to Lair, the darkly lit, Gothic-fixtured Noho area Asian Fusion eatery helmed by affable Chef Chris Cheung, formerly of Ruby Foo's, The Monkey Bar and Jean Georges. With a stellar lineup of eateries behind him, Chueng definitely know what people are looking for these days in this type of fare!
Bone Marrow and Scallion Pancakes
We sampled six of seven dishes and a drink called Mr. Hot Pants which includes Herradua Reposado, Campari, Mezcal, Passionfruit and Thai Chili Pepper Agave -- and this is the most peppery drink we have ever tasted. If the phrase "puts hair on your chest" ever applied to a drink, it's this one! There is a full bar at Lair, which is a lounge as much as it is a restaurant, and if you are so inclined, you can get the classic pricey NYC bottle service (but never fret, you can always get a seat at any hour even if you don't want to pay $350 for a bottle of vodka). The signature cocktails are all $15 (the apricot and ginger beer infused Mamma Mule Feelgood is our favorite), with beer at $7 and wines from $8 to 11 per glass.
Chinese Chips
Now about the Lair menu--instead of being singled out as "appetizers, entrees and desserts," everything is simply called a "plate" and prices range from $7 to $12 each. Portions are generally average sized and most nearby tables looked to me as if they ordered four or five plates and shared amongst four to six people. Classic munchies are the Chinese Chips With Housemade Duck Sauce (which included crispy tarot chips freshly deep fried in peanut oil) and Coconut Bao Bread With Five Spice Local Honey Hoisin Butter (fresh balls of a traditional doughy Chinese bread containing fresh coconut flakes and coconut milk -- served warm, this is a must-have for coconut lovers -- you don't even need the butter!).
Coconut Bao Bread
The lightest plates (both ideal for vegans as well) are the Eggplant And Mushroom Shu Mai (which are done in a rather traditional Asian style) and the House Salad With Ginger Dressing (the organic wild green mix is one of the most tender we've had in the recent past and the miso dressing is very low-oil). Also, fish eaters will appreciate the Mango Noodles Salad With Rock Shrimp And Chili Lime for not only its wholesome healthiness, but for its nice peppery kick.
Eggplant and Mushroom Shu Mai
Heartier eaters will appreciate Roasted Bone Marrow With X/O Marmalade & Scallion Pancakes (much firmer and less greasy than the traditional kind), Chicken Pillows With Crispy Chicken Skin & Johnny Blue Sauce (a delight for those folks who truly think the skin is the best part of any chicken dish) and Dry Aged Black Angus Beef Dumplings (the meat is so tender and juicy and it's a wonderful change from pork which is, of course, traditionally used in Chinese meat dumplings).
Black Angus Beef Dumplings
For dessert, our table shared the rather generously portioned Shanghai Walnut Crusted Marshmallows, which we can only describe as a caramel and marshmallow sundae without the ice cream (but it's so rich and yummy, you won't miss / need the ice cream!). About a dozen toasted marshmallows sit on a 2" high circle of homemade whipped cream sitting in caramel sauce, which is then topped with finely chopped walnuts and more caramel sauce. Also offered up for dessert are plates of three scoops of ice cream and sorbet and Caramel Apples With Crispy Plum (which our waitperson described as "kind of an apple soup"). Trust us that we will be trying the latter on our next visit to Lair!
Walnut Crusted Marshmallow
Reservations are not necessary but they can be made on If you want to go just for drinks, many people have reported that they like the fact that there's a bit of a "beautiful people" scene but without the snobbery usually associated with that type of place. You'll love the friendliness of the staff and the atmosphere as much as you'll enjoy the grub and grog!

201 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10012
(212) 334-5247

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