Vandal Restaurant

I didn't want to like this place...

Vandal is a behemoth space in what formerly housed The General restaurant and Finale nightclub.  It calls itself a marriage of "Street Art" and "Street Food" with acclaimed chef Chris Santos (Beauty & Essex, Stanton Social, judge on Food Network's Chopped) at the helm food-wise and the Tao Group doing everything else I assume.  Full disclosure, both Tao Group and Beauty & Essex have been fantastic supporters of hotel concierges, but I'll try not to be a shill.

Vandal is on the Bowery, which is has now become the new happening area of the city for dinner and hanging out.  Like Beauty & Essex, you have to walk through a store of sorts to get to the host, this time it is a flower shop run by the upscale and contemporary florist Ovando.   Beautiful arrangements, but weird place for a flower shop, yes.  Once past Seymour & Audrey you are face to face with the "Front Desk", to the right a gargantuan statue of a pink bunny doing some break-dance move and to the left coat check.  Large murals of additional art pervade throughout the various spaces.  These are curated by Hush, the renowned British street artist.

Steak Tartare on a Pretzel (left), Tuna Crudo (right)

Steak Tartare on a Pretzel (left), Tuna Crudo (right)

There is one large bar that was ridiculously packed with the normal types for a new, hot place; older well dressed and adorned men, younger well dressed and adorned girls.  There are numerous drink options (like I am glad I am not a bartender there so I don't have to memorize all these) and beer by the bottle.  There are two main dining rooms and beautiful "private" room called the Garden Room.  The servers all looked eerily alike, attractive, dark haired women and were very attentive and friendly.  My server happily made suggestions when I asked and I followed her lead.  

Just about everything I had was very good.  I really liked this spicy, vodka based drink I had.  Guess I had too many cause I can't remember the name.  Other highlights were New York Pretzel Steak Tartare; a creative new take on beef tartare with a nod to NYC.  "American?" Kobe beef spread over a large soft pretzel with a smoked aioli and pickled mustard seeds. I did wonder what it might be like if there was a hard pretzel rather than soft to introduce a new texture.  Just the same it was delicious. The Tuna Crudo seems standard, but was very good. The Octopus Hurache was fantastic.  I know it seems like everyone has octopus on the menu these days, but you have to try this one with a roasted green chile sauce.  The grilled Chilean Sea Bass Tacos featured huge chunks of bass, avocado, slaw and salsa.  You getting hungry yet? Save room for pizza.  The next table over ordered the Wild Mushroom Pizza and I totally fell for the power of suggestion as soon as I saw and smelled that pie. It was a perfect thin and crispy crust, topped with mushrooms, cheese and caramelized onions.  Heaven.  The only thing I wasn't crazy about were the Korean Rice Cakes with kim chee.  I really like the idea, but the rice cakes, which resembled gnocchi, were just too gummy for my liking.  I might actually try this dish at home with gnocchi instead. I wanted to have dessert but I was too full of all the delicious food I did have.  I will be back, there is a lot more on this menu that covers the whole world that I want to try.  

Wild Mushroom Pizza

Wild Mushroom Pizza

Once you are done with dinner Vandal wants you to continue the party downstairs in their lounge.  An undulating bar is the focal point of the room with chaise lounges built right into the bar so all one needs to do is reach behind them to receive a drink from a cocktail professional.

As I was leaving, it all came together for me: drinks, dinner, more drinks, hopefully a hookup and as you leave buy a flower for that lucky girl or guy.  Tao has thought of everything and covered all the bases.  Like I said I didn't want to like it it because of how popular it will be, but I did like it, a lot and I will be back for more.