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Tutuma Social Club

Midtown East

Music clubs are notorious for slapping customers with cover charges, drink minimums and inflated menu prices. All too often, the price doesn’t reflect the quality of the food. Bucking that trend is Tutuma Social Club, a recently opened Afro-Peruvian jazz-locale-cum-Peruvian restaurant with ambitions on both the audible and edible fronts. The club itself is easy to miss: A poorly marked flight of stairs leads down to a low-ceilinged, boxy space with run-of-the-mill track lighting, a rumbling air conditioner and my-landlord-just-renovated white walls that, despite a bar, small stage and dining tables, make it feel too much like converted living quarters. (The venue claimed to be in preview mode at the time of our visit, which may explain the decor, though we’re not sure that’s a valid excuse once a business starts charging money.) While a little ambience would have been nice, in the end you’re not there to look at the walls, nor to talk. You’re there to listen, drink and eat—the excellent live music doesn’t allow for easy conversation anyway. Though prices are high for the small portions, that’s perhaps to be expected, considering the place is both cover- and minimum-free. A mixed ceviche was a great rendition, with tender cubes of fresh fish, shrimp, mussels and octopus, and enough of the marinating liquid (known as leche de tigre) to swig. Three top-sirloin skewers, meanwhile, were pleasantly juicy, served atop delicate quenelles of potato puree seasoned with huacatay, a minty Peruvian herb. Another success was a thick gratin of shredded chicken in a creamy cheese sauce—a guilty indulgence. Other preparations were less rewarding: An acrid mushroom and artichoke ceviche had the acidity of vinegary pickles, and a cube of piglet confit with a coconut puree and corn cake relied too heavily on sweet notes. Desserts, meanwhile, showed the kitchen’s playfulness, with creations like “maki” made from chocolate and the caramel-like fruit lucuma, served with chopsticks and a pisco-spiked dipping sauce. With a little retuning of both the atmosphere and some dishes, Tutuma has the potential to outplay much of its competition.—TONY

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Venue name: Tutuma Social Club
Address: 164 E 56th St
New York

Cross street: between Lexington and Third Aves
Venue phone: 866-988-5299
Website: http://www.tutumasocialclub.com
Opening hours: Mon–Thu, Sun 11am–midnight; Fri, Sat 11am–1am
Transport: Subway: N, R to Lexington Ave–59th St; 4, 5, 6 to 59th St
Price: Average main course: $16. AmEx, MC, V
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