It's been ages since a new restaurant captivated the city quite like the Dutch. The hotly anticipated new venue from the team behind Tribeca sensation Locanda Verde has been packed since it opened, attracting a cross section of the downtown social scene. Right from the get-go the restaurant lived up to its preopening hype, bringing real heat to Soho as Balthazar and Blue Ribbon did in the '90s.
The Dutch seems destined to join the ranks of those neighborhood classics. Like the diverse crowd, the food—from virtuoso Andrew Carmellini—is eclectic: His rollicking menu reflects our increasingly free-form eating habits with loving homages to Chinatown, the barrio, Little Italy and the full range of midtown, from its oyster bars and old chophouses to its taquerias and noodle-shop dives.
To showcase this multicultural fare, design firm Roman and Williams divided the old Cub Room space into a cozy warren of intimate rooms with brass fixtures, cream brick walls and dark wooden beams on the ceilings. The various areas are buzzy, not deafening, with conversations evaporating out of the big picture windows.
Wherever you're seated—at the crowded bar, in the see-and-be-seen front room—begin with a newfangled riff on a classic cocktail, designed by Carmellini collaborator Naren Young. His rich and funky barrel-aged Brooklyn showcases rye and maraschino liqueur left to steep for six weeks in an old Tuthilltown cask. You might want to sip it alongside one of the exceptional bar snacks: fat-fried oysters on house-made slider buns; fresh-cooked potato chips slathered in smoky, creamy eggplant dip; and sweet-sticky pork ribs drenched in a delicious, pungent mix of hoisin, black-bean sauce, scallions and sesame.
The exuberant menu seems designed with the night owl in mind, tapping into the sorts of irrational cravings that often surface past midnight. You can veer from New England—gorgeous picked crab in horseradish-infused tomato water—to New Orleans, via tender pink slices of pecan-glazed duck breast with chicken-liver--enriched dirty rice. There's Mexican-inspired lamb neck in a genuine 30-ingredient red mole and "barrio" tripe: supple and spicy with avocado, diced radish and Fritos on top (now off the menu). And there's fried chicken (available only on the lunch, brunch and late-night menus), the peppery, golden half-bird served with a rotating spread of sides—smoky collards, flaky biscuits and mashed potatoes soaked in thick gravy when we visited.
The Dutch is the kind of place where you can confidently pair cool matchstick asparagus tossed in Thai basil, peanuts and fish sauce with an all-American rabbit potpie steaming under a showstopping dome of crackerlike crust. That all of it tastes good—and, somehow, works well together—explains why even 10pm reservations remain so hard to come by (walk-ins are encouraged).
Desserts, from Kierin Baldwin (understudy to Locanda's Karen DeMasco), skew classic, with a few modern flourishes. A traditional tart-and-creamy lime-custard pie on a great cookie crust comes tricked out with a voguish spritz of Maldon salt and passion-fruit syrup. Sweet and sticky toffee-soaked apple cake tastes like an Anglo export from the 19th century, but gets a contemporary touch from lemon-ginger syrup spread across the plate.
In increasingly mall-ified Soho, Carmellini's deeply personal homage to the American melting pot feels electric. Designing the restaurant's playlists himself and riffing on dishes from his own road-food adventures, the toque is clearly having a blast here—and by the looks of it, so are his patrons.
Eat this: Little oyster sandwiches, fried chicken, lamb-neck mole, rabbit potpie, salted lime pie
Drink this: The barrel-aged Brooklyn is a rich and intriguing option when it's available. Also look out for seasonal creations devised by Naren Young.
Sit here: There are spaces here to fit every mood or occasion. Walk-ins can always elbow their way up for a first-come, first-served meal at the bar. The adjacent front dining room is prime real estate. A second, much quieter dining room behind the kitchen is best suited to a more intimate tte--tte.
Conversation piece: The art on the walls here—photographs, paintings and prints—references downtown New York, from the 19th century to the 1980s. It includes works by Keith Haring, Ed Ruscha and Robert Miller, among other iconic neighborhood artists.