The Instagram Thing is an occasional column spotlighting things you’ll want to Instagram. Our previous editions highlighted the ten-foot snake topiary at the Standard East Village and the pegasus at Serendipity3.
There’s a lot of fun to be had at Little Mad, which opened this past June, and soon landed on our list of the best new restaurants in NYC. There’s the small but bustling open kitchen, where flames occasionally flare up like blazing ribbons, a cute amuse bouche to set the mood, and the most delightful new appetizer we’ve tried in a while.
Headlined on executive chef Sol Han’s Korean-American menu as beef tartare, “maesangi chip” is listed as its final ingredient the same way scallion oil trails the yellowtail starter. But this chip does the tartare’s literal and figurative lifting. It’s the final touch that gives the dish its eye-catching quality, the head-turning appeal that might make you kick yourself for skipping if you saw it delivered to another table. Especially when they drop the hammer.
Several shades of green lighter than the wispy, silken seaweed variety from whence it came, the “chip” is more of a shell at first, covering the tartare like a souvenir you might bring back from the beach. They could leave you to break it apart by hand, but instead you’re offered a small wooden hammer about the size of what you’d use to build a birdhouse, or call to order a tea party populated by porcelain dolls.
One swift, sonorous tap–not quite a whack–is enough to do the trick, seeming to shatter the chip and suspend its pieces in the air before they collapse onto the plate as though gravity has just been turned on. Now they’re chips, excellently calibrated to scoop up the crimson cubes of beef below. It’s a real reveal–very “voila!”–like lifting up a cake dome at a bake sale in a magical realism novella.
The whole presentation is so seamless, like everyone’s just shattering apps with hammers all over town, that you’ll want to ready your lens for the main event lest it happens too fast. It’s more cinematic than some other Instagram Things, too, a little Pretty Woman, even, so video is your ideal medium here.
The seemingly spontaneous whimsy of this one is also oddly, unexpectedly romantic, like there might be an engagement ring hiding in there somewhere. It also demonstrates that sometimes The Instagram Thing would still be delicious even absent its obvious social media merits. And that more people should be putting jewelry in meat.
Little Mad is located at 110 Madison Avenue and is open Tuesday-Thursday from 5pm–10pm and Friday and Saturday from 5pm–11pm.