Word on the estreet that a great friend in Philadelphia was going to cash in his fairbandb gift card at the hottest spot in town on his birthday did the impossible: got me motivated to post here, on Double Knot, the latest from Michael Schulson, whose Buddakan background shows. With luck, he and his wife would be seated in the space my consort and I were, away from the where-do-they-get-the-money whippersnappers rousing it up in the next room in that subterranean wonderland, and would get the superb waitress we scored, the one who spent so much time talking us through the virtually noun-only menu.
She advised us to order six to eight dishes to share, and the prices made us both wonder if we shoulda doubled up. But the first little bowl to land, for all of $7, held four edamame dumplings, scented with truffle in very tender skins. Tuna on a “rice cracker” for $8 proved to be even more sensational, the tartare set over what could have been fried risotto, not the lame-ass crackers we were anticipating. Of course we had to try the duck scrapple bao, and it was not just plural but exceptional, the meat sausagey but not scrapple-weird, the steamed buns just light enough to contain it. Pastrami bao was nearly as sensational (each order $7). “Enoki bacon” translated as those little outer-space mushrooms wrapped in pig belly and grilled on skewers, the one dish that did not hold up so well in the microwave in the fairbandb next a.m. (We could have gotten away with just one order of those at $4 apiece, too.) A heaping bowl of miso fried rice with black cod, for all of $9, made me rethink my Chiu Chow recipe from Hong Kong; fish chunks and ginger and scallions would definitely make it even better. But the real winner of this feast of small plates was our $7 order of gyoza, dumplings with savory filling fried into almost a cake.
As always, I wondered why more chefs don’t indulge their patrons by making food effortless to share. Bob is a knife whiz who can even get four portions out of a soft-shell crab already cut into thirds, but no one should have to work that hard.
Anyway, I had two glasses of (surprise) sauvignon blanc, a good pour for $11, but I’m amazed Bob managed even one of the Double Knot cocktails, made with bourbon, rye and two types of vermouth. The stairs were tricky going down; I wondered if he’d navigate back up. The presentation alone might make you high, though: That excellent waitress torched a little mound of spices on a barrel stave, laid the snifter over it to capture the smoke and then poured in the high-octane drink.
We couldn’t even finish all our food and pitied the two olds at the next table who had ordered 11 dishes between them. Shorter? Put the brakes on, Don. 120 South 13th Street, 215 631 3868.