Tuesday, March 23, 2010

At Nolita House, enjoy the soundtrack but skip the food

Friday night was the long-awaited moment when the girls and I finally got together with KVK, a friend from our office's LA location. I chose Nolita House for the scene of the crime, since it was relatively convenient to the apartments of my three downtown companions

I arrived first and immediately noted that this place was LOUD. And I mean you-know-you're-going-to-be-yelling-the-entire-night loud. And rest assured we were-- once we had finally convinced the hostesses that our party of three (soon to be four) was worthy of being seated before our fourth arrived (yes we'd order! Yes we'd start eating!). We were seated in a table in the back, wedged in so tightly with the other tables in the tiny space that we all kept elbowing people at other tables throughout the evening.

But what about the food? SL and KVK put in an order for a couple of apps while we sipped our drinks, SL a prosecco, KVK a beer, and me a glass of tempranillo/garnacha that was suitably light, fruity, and easy-drinking. AC arrived right when the apps did, and they dug in. The verdict was that the artichoke dip was a winner, but the mac and cheese spring rolls weren't worth a second bite. While the apps were passed around, we all dug into the complimentary mini-loaf pan packed full of tiny, addictive, and unabashedly greasy potato chips. Yum.

Toasted cheese crumbles on top?

Fried cheese and carbs. Healthy.

Have some chips!

We finally placed our entree order, and even though the place is a pretty tiny restaurant, it took a notably long time for the plates to arrive. When they did, the results were mixed. AC and SL were relatively happy with their tacos, which came with some generic-looking Mexican sides and condiments.

Chicken 'n' guac

Anemic rice & beans

But KVK wasn't thrilled with his Penne of Mulberry, which he chose with chicken (you can also get it with sausage). He took a few bites and left the rest.

Looks more interesting than it was

My choice was probably the stealth winner of the night-- I simply ordered one cheese from their cheese list. At only $5, my plate of brebirousse d'argental was a true bargain. It was a huge wedge of cheese accompanied by a few afterthought garnishes (undressed mesclun, three dried apricots, a half dozen dry craisins). The flatbread, the same vehicle that was supplied alongside the artichoke dip, was ample but surprisingly bad-- dry and crumbly and flavorless, somewhat stale-tasting, basically lacking any redeeming qualities whatsoever. But the cheese itself was deliciously creamy and soft. I was happy with that choice.

Chunk o' yummy cheese

So Nolita House presents a true Offset Spatula rating dilemma. Did we have fun? Yes. Was it reasonably priced? Quite. Was the food good? On balance, no. Was the service good? Definitely no. But-- and this is a big but-- what would keep me coming back to Nolita House was the music. Yes, I noted it was incredibly loud, but it had by far and away the best bar soundtrack I've ever heard. Let's just say they had me at Jesse's Girl. Turns out the mix was simply the bartender's iPod, and the place turns into a dance party after 11ish. That's certainly worth remembering. Which brings me to my final recommendation: Nolita House gets two Offset Spatulas, but if you go, don't go for dinner. Come after 11 for some reasonably priced drinks and some sick beats.

Nolita House
47 East Houston Street, between Mott and Mulberry

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