[Free Stuff by Wilfrid: October 3, 2016]
Back in January, I trudged through the cold to sample superior bar food at the Greenwich Village branch of The Malt House. It had been open since 2012, but the owners were excited about their newer, grand, finer dining version on Maiden Lane in the FiDi.
The ground floor Arch Bar from above: courtesy The Malt House
Nine months later, I was pleased to accept an invitation to sample my way through a good section of the menu at the second Malt House (and there are rumors of a third).
Above the ground floor bar, there's a small mezzanine, and a private board room for parties with a beautiful original skylight. In the basement, another bar (also reservable) boasting a 300 bottle whisky selection.
We sat in a raised booth area, somewhat secluded from the ground floor drinking crowd, and worked through chef Avila's offerings, starting with devilled eggs (which don't appear to be on the new menu). Party food with several twists such as the bacon bits mixed with the yolk, the avocado, the serrano pepper cap, and Srirachi aioli.
I think there was a consensus that the "buttermilk bites" were the least successful of the dishes we tried. I guess I'd call it popcorn fried chicken, along the lines of popcorn shrimp, but the little nibbles were light on chicken, heavy on slightly greasy batter. The highlight, a herbal cilantro jalapeño aioli. Easy to eat absent-mindedly while drinking.
Speaking of parties, and more particularly buffets, I've never been a fan of crab dip. It can be bland, it can be heavy, and it seems an unfair thing to do to crab. But this was much better than that. I'd still take my crab cold and unmolested, but at least this rendition was light--almost airy--and had a good proportion of crab to carb (I spell-checked that). An especially good idea was supplying crisp strips of plantain to stand in for chips. Great for scooping.
Chef Avila knows how to make a sandwich, although he tested our ability to consume them. In a city of sliders, I thought the slow-cooked short rib sliders were very good: rich and earthy. Caramelized onions on top, and some very good home-made pickles.
I ate the hefty Wagyu burger at the Greenwich Village MH, and it's still good: a juicy patty with the usual trimmings. I also ate rather too many of the fries. The blackened salmon po' boy which followed was almost a sandwich too far. For one thing--witness the pictures above--the burger and the salmon sandwich look almost identical, especially in the mood lighting. I'd also be pedantic and say that this is not a po' boy. At a minimum, a po' boy has to be served on a length of French bread. It's effectively a good salmon sandwich, but you don't want to eat it right after the burger (nor are you likely to).
The chef wanted to offer some full-on entrées in addition to the American tavern cooking. These currently include a rib eye steak and a vegetarian quinoa risotto (I count cod and chips as bar food). We tried the roast chicken au jus, a Paul Bunyan-esque stack of moist chicken pieces, creamed potatoes, and kale (it says on the menu, although it tasted like spinach to me). A mushroom gravy is what I'd call the jus.
I hope it's understandable that we backed away from dessert. Go after 8pm, review the whiskies (and the reproductions of vintage US flags on the wall of the basement bar) or order beers from 40 taps; enjoy the surroundings; share an appetizer, then eat a burger or sandwich. But only one.
Portions shown are full size (although we shared them); prices are very reasonable-- around $10-$12 for the snacky items, low twenties for the entrées (steak a little more). Historic, hearty and generous.