There are a few restaurants in the city that are traditions. The go-to spot in a particular neighborhood for special occasions or maybe late night drinks or the all-important catch up with the ladies. Vynl’s been one of those spots for me – fabulous for catching up and I’ve even been known to drag wonderful friends there for a late night meal after my trapeze show – no better way to celebrate. The danger though of being one of those spots? People have their favorites and they cling to them fiercely.
My friend JB and I hadn’t been here in ages. This past Saturday seemed like a perfect time for a return. A lemongrass chicken wrap – cause I’ve yet to find it anywhere else – with a skinny margarita. And if we’re lucky, chocolate peanut butter pie. Oh yes. Doesn’t get any better than all of the above.
We arrived to find the menu hadn’t undergone a facelift. Oh no. They’d opted for Michael Jackson style reconstruction. The only thing that stayed the same seemed to be the restaurant’s name. When the server came over to ask how we were doing, neither of us were too good at hiding our displeasure. “Fair,” we responded, pointing to the menu and expressing our displeasure.
And here’s where Vinyl got it right.
“We’ve been closed the last week, perfecting the new menu items. We’ve tried them all as well. We’re trying to make the food here a little more upscale. I understand your frustration – I tell you what. I’ll send out a couple of my favorite starters for you to try so you can see yourself. And then take a look at the menu. I’ll be back to talk with you both and we’ll see what we can do there.”
Hard to argue with that, along with his willingness to make the drinks we were craving even though they were not on the menu.
He brought me the Little Madam Hams – small toasted brioche squares with American ham, a gruyere bechamel sauce, topped with quail eggs. I’m not a huge fan of eggs with a runny center, but I found the quail eggs better. The flavor in the dish was amazing. I could eat the gruyere bechamel sauce every day and not grow tired of it. Since my friend doesn’t eat meat, they sent her the crispy tofu. I was intrigued to try it, seeing as our server said he traditionally hated tofu and this made him a believer. The tofu squares were lightly fried, paired with persimmons, radishes and a scallion chili dressing. It didn’t even taste like tofu. Delicious! And there was a nice kick to the scallion chili dressing that helped add a lot to the dish.
We finally decided to go with an order of the Kung Pao shrimp tacos, which were served with a cabbage-bell pepper slaw, honey peanuts, and a spicy lime creme sauce. There was a pronounced spicy flavor to the tacos which worked well with the sauce for the tofu. We also got sides of brussels sprouts and green beans, which worked well for sharing.
We were torn as to what to choose for dessert. Thankfully, we did not have to – as our server sent one out to us! He did tell us we could choose otherwise if we wanted, but I think we both agree that letting him choose worked out just fine. He sent us a dish they call “You Have the Munchies” – which is vanilla cake, chocolate frosting, potato chips, pretzels, and popcorn. It is fantastic – the perfect combination of salty and sweet. I joked it’s the perfect date dessert since it should please everyone! There are other things on the dessert menu I can’t wait to try – the Vynl ring dings (dark chocolate cake with vanilla butter cream) or the PBJ creme brulee with concord grape compote (so unique – I must try).
Overall, my hat’s off to the team at Vinyl. Way to be prepared for the situation and work with your customers. Refreshing to see, for sure. [And if you're wondering, why yes. The Elvis bathroom is still there, in all it's glory.]
Anyone else been since the big redesign?
Vinyl – 754 9th Avenue (at 51 Street) – 212.974.2003