Heat and spice are not necessarily synonymous.
Overheard at Potluck Club, which the team from Milk & Cream Cereal Bar opened on Chrystie Street in June: “Is this going to be spicy?” It is going to be skillfully seasoned, yes, which does not answer the question, I know. But with few exceptions, Potluck Club’s Cantonese American menu items are not intended to be “hot” in the fiery, peppery sense more typically associated with, say, Sichuan cuisine. So, if you’re wondering out of caution, do not worry. Otherwise, plan to ignite another day or ask for extra jalapeños with your salt and pepper chicken ($25).
The reimagined plate could fairly be described as deconstructed, topping boneless fried thighs amplified by white pepper and a five-spice blend with the green pickled slices, capsaicin somewhat reduced from the process. The chicken is crispy and juicy, portioned to fit between scallion biscuits and spread with a bit of accompanying chili-plum jam for a little DIY sandwich. The biscuits arrive in pairs, their photo-ready surface enticingly gold with flecks of veggie green, abstractly rectangular in handmade fashion. They look delicious, and their best bites are as light and buttery as they appear, with a few drier, denser tastes in between.
The braised short ribs with kabocha ($38) rise above as Potluck Club’s imperative dish. Inspired by a preparation by head chef Zhan Chen’s father, they’re wonderfully rich and easily separated from bone, fat rendered to silken effect. They’re recommended with sensory-recalibrating with white rice ($3), fluffy and faultlessly executed.
A few items are plenty to share between a couple, so come with a crowd to try a little more without the commitment to takeout containers at the end of the night. Potluck Club is exceedingly conducive to larger parties. A row of tables easily reconfigured for groups or those even-more-easily-overheard parties of two leads to the bar under a marquee that reads “HERE FOR A GOOD TIME NOT A LONG TIME,” and curves toward the wider dining room. The whole space is attractive, with murals and high-gloss finishes and flattering lights and splashes of sea and coral shades. It all looks like the place to be.
There are a dozen items on Potluck Club’s dinner menu at press time, with plenty of details to recommend them. The jellyfish tiger salad is daintily arranged with Chinese celery, cilantro, scallions and showered with sesame seeds. A modest tabletop toss mixes its snappy, refreshing flavors. The tea egg supplement ($3) in the XO fried rice with shrimp and sausage ($19) is among the best I’ve had. And the Spicy eggplant ($16) from veggie section is, as billed, one deliberately hot option. Its slices are fried, coated in doubanjiang-garlic sauce and topped with cilantro and fried shallots. It’s a great nightshade, firm and tender and a little creamy with enough of that stated bite to assert itself without shouting. The shallots are terrific, too, giving the already ideally-textured dish a dynamic crunch. It’s likely suitable for most—perky not tear-springing—and a bit more rice can slake sensitive palates.
One dessert, a tower of swirled pineapple soft serve ($7) harks back to the team’s first operation and, with the additional sprinkle of pineapple bun crumble, the attention to texture that gives some of Potluck Club’s best bets that status. There’s also a fortune cookie on top, but time flies fast in this fun environment, and you may have already glanced up at the message.
The Vibe: Casual, fun and easy (probably easiest when you make a reservation since it’s pretty popular) with the room and the mood for groups.
The Food: Cantonese American plates with a “newish take on old classics.”
The Drinks: Beer and wine.
Time Out Tip: Potluck Club is great for large parties, but email firstname.lastname@example.org to book for 8 or more.
Potluck Club is located at 133 Chrystie Street. It is open Thursday-Sunday from 5:30pm-10pm.