Tucked away in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, the Ember Room is my answer to the inevitable question asked of NYC residents by non-NYC dwellers: “I’m going to see (insert name of show) tonight, where should I go eat pre/post dinner?” With its clubby atmosphere, sleek décor, and smooth pan-Asian/fusion menu created by celebrity chefs Todd English and Ian Chalermkittichai (of Kittichai fame), it’s a great way to give your guests the experience of a chic, Meatpacking-ish restaurant without having to venture all the way to 12th avenue.
I’d request to sit upstairs, where you can gaze at the hundreds of shiny, brass Chinese temple bells hanging from the ceiling as you sip on Asian-inspired cocktails and tease your appetite with starters like the Thai Pastrami meatballs–a slightly sweeter take on the traditional salty beef meatball with a tamarind glaze, coconut and dash of thick yellow, Chinese mustard.
The menu is nicely split up, with options for vegetarians and meat-and-seafood-lovers alike, that is a combination of the pan-Asian and fusion cooking styles. My dining partner, Editor Carolyn, and I had hearty appetites that night, and sampled the Red Chili Glazed Sea Bass and Crispy Duck Confit with foie gras. My sea bass was tasty and cooked perfectly in that lovely way that good sea bass should be—flaky, yielding easily to my fork so that a knife wasn’t even required. It came with a flash of spicy-sweet sauce, with notes of the red chili and celeriac featuring most prominently. Carolyn’s duck was fall-off-the-bone and came in a Thai-inspired coconut red curry that was pungent and flavorful, accompanied with pineapple and eggplant. The sweetness of the coconut was a nice contrast to the richness of the foie gras, that blended all the components of the dish seamlessly together. As a salty contrast to the relatively sweet nature of our dishes, we shared the 7-Spice fries as a complement. The crispy, golden fries spiced generously with Togarashi—a Japanese mix of sea salt, toasted seaweed nori flakes, Szechuan peppercorn, and black sesame seeds, that delivered a satisfying crunchy crust against the sweetness of ketchup. Other standouts on the menu that we unfortunately didn’t get the chance to sample were the Chinese meatloaf with Chinese bacon and the Asian goulash sliders.
Completely stuffed, as a sweet bite, Carolyn and I split the mille-feuille (known as the thousand layer) cake. Also my mom’s favorite cake, the delicately rendered slice with its fragile crepe layers with fragrant cream, was a light, subtle ending to our strongly-flavored meal. The cake was one of the best mille-feuille slices I’ve had, giving the one at Lady M’s tea salon a run for its money.
The Ember Room is located at 647 Ninth Avenue, between 45th and 46th. Call (212) 245-8880 to make reservations.