First Impressions: White Street

White Street booth2For my first visit to White Street, the new restaurant in the former Churrascaria Tribeca, I sat at the end of the S-shaped bar and ordered a gin and tonic—a reliable yardstick for getting a sense of a place. Size? (Very good.) In a rocks glass? (Yes.) Tonic from a fresh bottle? (I don’t think so, but it wasn’t on the flat side, as is so often the case when from a gun.) Juicy lime? (Juicy enough.) Quality ice? (No, it was those terrible hollowed-out cubes.) Anything else? (The paper cocktail napkin was among the cheapest I’ve come across. But I liked how the bartender just told me that I owed $12 instead of going through the check rigamarole.)

While being repeatedly jabbed in the head by an office plant—the guy next to me was not interested in giving an inch—I surveyed the setting. The layout is the same as at Churrascaria Tribeca: You enter from W. Broadway, where the entrance is discreet, to say the least; the front of the L-shaped space is a dim lounge, with the dining room behind it. The bar counter is rose granite—a material I perhaps unfairly associate with my parents’ kitchen counter in Palm Springs—with 10 or so stools upholstered in black leather. I couldn’t tell if the leather was real or simulated, so let’s blame the gin and give it the benefit of the doubt.

And I cadged a look at the menu, which has a lot to like about it:

White Street menu appetizersWhite Street menu main coursesWhite Street menu sidesThe next night, I went back for dinner. Adam was already there, waiting in the lounge. The chairs are small and low—making a tall person feel like a clown—and that’s when I realized that the front half of White Street reminds me of a hotel bar. In particular, a hotel bar where management modernized by embracing black (White Street has black columns, black tables, a black ceiling, and black curtains), sawing the legs off the chairs and tables, and mismatching the chairs.

The restaurant is 5,000 square feet, and it’s not remotely cramped. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such wide aisles in a restaurant, and the three of us—a friend came along—were seated at a round table that could have accommodated six. (Other four-tops are square, and more normal in size. Couples will want to bear in mind that all of the two-tops are in the crook of the L.) At most restaurants these days, being so far from one’s companions makes hearing a challenge, but White Street’s acoustics are refreshing. The music, however, ranging from Dire Straits to dance pop, could stand a bit of curating.

Possibly because Adam thought the reservation was under my name, the hostess identified me as Tribeca Citizen, something I prefer to avoid. Not that it got us a smooth ride. (I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that we didn’t meet our server till we had been seated for a half hour—luckily, another staffer took pity on us.) What it did get us was complimentary glasses of Champagne and an order of the “New Jersey burrata,” as well as a visit from chef Floyd Cardoz. I had never met him, and the conversation was enjoyable.

The word on the street has been that Cardoz is cutting loose again after being forced to play it safe at North End Grill. Certainly, there are touches of exotic spicing that were very welcome. What we liked: the bucatini, the pumpkin soup, and the short ribs. What we didn’t: the cauliflower side dish was boiled but barely roasted—in other words, void of flavor—and only later did I realize that it cost a galling $18.

As we were about to leave, we ran into friends who are far more on top of the restaurant scene than we are. Since their group was presumably not on the restaurant’s radar (or they wouldn’t have had to wait 40 minutes past their reservation to be seated), I asked what they thought of the food. The report….

Pea tendrils: Great spicy dressing.
Heirloom tomatoes: The most disappointing app. Nothing really going on.
Shaved vegs: The spicy yogurt dressing was great.
The bucatini: A hit (good because I ordered two of those).
Lamb: Ordered med rare, got very rare.
Sea bream: Good; interesting crust.
Short ribs: Best entrée. Very tasty.
Quinoa cake: Fine, a bit dry. Nothing special.
Bouillabaisse: I didn’t taste much of this, but our friend liked it.
Wild mushrooms: Kind of gross.
Shishito peppers: So undercooked they were actually crunchy, with almost no sign of char.

The bottom line? I’m intrigued by the food, a bit bewildered by the decor, and optimistic that the service will pick up once the buzz cools down. I expected Adam to say he wouldn’t go back; I can’t tell you how many times he has resented being forced to try a restaurant too soon after it has opened, subsequently vowing never to return. But even with White Street being pretty expensive (considering the glitches), he said the cooking was enough of a draw.

A note about the photos below: The food shots are courtesy White Street because the lighting turned mine to glop, and the last photo is of the private room.

UPDATE 9/24: The menu has changed (including the prices for the cauliflower and the bucatini). See last image below.

White Street is at 221 W. Broadway (between White and Franklin), 212-944-8378; whitestreetnyc.com.

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Update: Comments have been turned off due to spam. To have them turned back on, email tribecacitizen@gmail.com. You’re welcome to comment about White Street on the restaurant’s page in the Tribeca Citizen Restaurant Guide.

2 Comments

  1. Given that lobster prices are at nearly an all-time low currently, there’s no valid excuse for charging $24 for that appetizer-sized portion of bucatini, with the meager nubbins of lobster it contains. They need to either increase the portion and make it a straight-up entree for a couple bucks more (like Babbo’s spaghettini with a whole lobster for $28) or only charge maybe $16 for the dish as it exists now. It’s not the foie gras app, Floyd. Tasty, but no way justifies the price.

  2. More disturbing is that the $24 lobster is off of the Kids’ Menu….maybe.