Photographs: Marianne Rafter
Though exotic decor can make a strong first impression, it doesn’t necessarily translate to great food. Betel, a sultry new Pan-Asian restaurant, may look like a resort in Bali—its Australian owners, chef Adam Woodfield and his partner Luke Fryer, have outfitted the long, dark space in rough-hewn communal tables illuminated by lanterns—but the cooking calls to mind an overpriced tourist trap. The slim restaurant, oddly conceived with big parties in mind, serves huge platters of pseudo--Southeast Asian cuisine (and enormous sweet cocktails) at prices that at first seem outrageous—$28 for chicken curry?—but turn out to be only somewhat exorbitant: The dishes, designed for family-style sharing, are large enough to feed three or four. Like the restaurant they’re served in—Carmine’s meets Tao—these heaping platters of mildly spiced fare certainly make a visual splash. The betel leaf for which the restaurant is named forms the wrapper for a two-bite tease—filled with smoked trout and its roe—served before the onslaught of dishes begins. Greasy fried cuttlefish nuggets arrive in a pile so copious, they barely fit on their broad oval plate. A whole deep-fried snapper ($42), contorted into a mountain of gnarled crispy fish, slopes high atop an oversize platter. Though the fish itself is certainly succulent, the sauce poured on and around it is an inauthentic, goopy mess. A variation on that same glop, dotted with mandarin segments, coats the legs, thighs and breast of an overcooked duck—General Tso’s duck l’orange. Though dessert, limited to sorbet or super-sweet duck-egg crme caramel, may placate your palate, your stomach might struggle after seeing the bill.