Vandal – Lower East Side

After my visit to the New Museum last week, I was very intrigued by the tons of cool and trendy restaurants around the area. Vandal immediately caught my attention, and after some investigation, I realized this restaurant was definitely one to go to immediately.

What really sealed the deal was the moment I learned that the restaurant is owned by Chris Santos. I actually don’t know anything about Chris Santos at all, except for the fact that he was a judge on Chopped. But, after years of watching Chopped, I couldn’t help but feel excited by the fact that Santos owned the place.

Vandal is right on the Bowery, which is quite an interesting street to walk on with many odd consecutive stores. The entryway to Vandal has a little plant shop  with extremely overpriced tiny greenery… which I immediately walked through after questioning its existence. However, upon entry, Vandal is a very big restaurant, with a downstairs lounge that often hosts private dining events, and multiple secluded dining rooms. The place is VERY cool and trendy. There are tons of murals, sculpted walls, paintings, and pictures with great care of placement and decor. The place is beautiful. I was also a fan of the lighting (I’m a sucker for dim lighting). The decor is definitely some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

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Our reservation was at five, and the restaurant opened at five, so I was able to take pictures of the place while it was practically empty.

Our waiter was very friendly and easygoing, and he was very helpful with the menu. The menu is “international street food,” which is basically small-plate or tapas style cuisine. Basically, you take 3+ dishes and share them with people. How many dishes you get depends on what you get and how many people you are sharing with. All the dishes are for sharing, but they are broken up into size on the menu under “Light,” “Street Food,” and “Large,” which corresponds to small, medium, and large.

We ordered three dishes since we weren’t starving. After some suggestions from the waiter, we got the crispy potato gnocchi, sticky rice dumplings, and crispy bao buns. All three dishes were categorized under “Street Food.”

All three dishes were outstanding, but I think the best was probably the gnocchi. The gnocchi tasted notably homemade, thick, crispy, and filling. The sauce was phenomenal with a garlic aioli and some cheese. It wasn’t too heavy and the portion was small, and it’s definitely a dish I’d order again if I came back.

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Then, they brought out the crispy bao buns, which are basically asian brisket buns. They were very good, with a bit of asian slaw on top that added a refreshing crunch. I would say of the three dishes, it was my least favorite, but they were still phenomenal nonetheless.

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Last, they brought out the sticky rice dumplings, which were stuffed with pork. These were so soft and comforting, and these sauce — again — was notably tasty as a red chile oil. These were my second favorite. They tasted very much like Italian rice balls, but with a little bit more of a spicy kick.

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Overall, all the dishes were great, and the portion sizes made me happy. I was full, but not stuffed, and I was extremely satisfied with the variety of dishes I had tasted.

Morgenstern’s Ice Cream is around the corner, so we opted for that, but I’m sure the desserts at Vandal are quite good.

Overall, Vandal was definitely a great experience, and I expect to be back. The decor is A+ trendy, stylish, tasteful, chic, and fulfilling of my desires for atmosphere. The food was also a solid A with plenty of flavor, tasty sauces, pleasant portions, and attractive presentation. Definitely worth the trip.

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