First Impressions: Distilled

Distilled barDistilled aims to be a “modern American public house” (a.k.a. a pub), as the server will inform you. I think the phrase is meant to indicate a gastropub—that the food and “libations” are not tossed off, but the atmosphere will be casual. Hence the paper napkins and tabletop silverware caddies, which we mocked until a friend dropped his fork on the floor, and we saw how handy it could be. Moreover, much of the menu is meant to be shared and the kitchen prefers to send dishes out when it wants.

Distilled windowWe had a bumpy entry: The four of us were led to a table that I assumed was hot because of its proximity to the open kitchen, but after the staff graciously agreed to move us to a counter-height table to the east of the bar—now along the southern window, the opposite of where it was at Centrico—I discovered that the entire room was sultry. (The air conditioning appeared to be down.) We didn’t exactly have our choice of tables—for a new restaurant, on a Monday, Distilled was busy, mainly with young (i.e., under 40) people.

We ordered appetizers to share and our own entrées. The complimentary spiced popcorn was a hit, while the “salty, spicy, sweet” peanuts struck us as overly sweet—but they were nothing compared to the glass of mead, which the restaurant has decided to specialize in. The onion rings were worth the caloric splurge, and the roasted cauliflower (with shiro miso, pumpkin seeds, snap peas, and basil) and mushrooms (with soubise, black vinegar, garlic chips; shown at right) rated highly. The caddy also holds herb vinegar and chili oil, if you want to add zest; none of us felt the need.

As for the entrées: One friend liked his hanger steak, and Adam was OK with the salmon. I had been persuaded by the Village Voice’s rave to order the country-fried duck, served on a waffle, and maybe I had simply overeaten—even the vegetable dishes have a full-bodiedness—but I found it to be a misfire. The waffle itself, drenched in smoked serrano maple syrup, was tasty enough, especially with the Thai basil, but the batter did the duck no favors. I managed to find room for an excellent tater tot, which we ordered as an off-the-menu side dish.

The space has amazing potential, as you no doubt know, with a high ceiling and huge picture windows facing south and west. The windows have been covered with wooden blinds, however, turning it somewhat insular; I don’t recall sunlight being an issue, but maybe it was, and maybe they’ll open the blinds over time—because as is, your eye is drawn up, toward round chandeliers, pipes, and that cottage-cheese acoustic stuff. If there’s art, I don’t remember it, although I was grateful the lone TV over the bar was off. There’s not much of a sense of place, which I think is going to be Distilled’s main challenge. You could be anywhere, or worse: “It’s a little Midtown,” said one of my friends. Perhaps the restaurant will overcome it with warmth (the staff could not have been lovelier), the accessible pricing, and the most pleasant outdoor seating in the area.

Note: Possibly because of the heat and/or because I was taking notes and photos, Distilled comped our first round of drinks and gave us a free slice of strawberry cheesecake.

Distilled is at 211 W. Broadway (at Franklin), 212-601-9514; distilledny.com.

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5 Comments

  1. So the flatware is out where everyone can touch it? Sorry but eeewwwww

  2. Went last week with a couple friend who also lives in the neighborhood and we will not be back.

    food was terrible, our meals all came out at different times. the hanger steak came out a full ten minutes after the last person got their dish.

  3. Ate there late Saturday night – place was humming – sweet-salty-sticky-asian-y wings were marvellous, as were the ribs. Agree with you about the staff – they were charmers but not sycophants (nice change). I would urge them to have the rusted steps fixed – not a good look as one arrives and also a suit waiting to happen .

  4. I took my kids on Friday evening and we had a great meal. They loved the popcorn and watermelon and I really enjoyed the cauliflower.

    Some of the blinds had broken and light was indeed an issue. I had to wear my sunglasses but it won’t keep me from going back. Next time we’re trying the ribs and the apple pie float.

  5. I went with a friend on Friday after work for drinks and snacks.. Needless to say we only stayed for 1 drink due to the air not working leaving us to melt inside.. My old fashion was good while her lemonade like drink left much to be desired.. the space, location and idea behind distilled is a good one… its just missing something and needs AC …