After reading one excruciatingly overwritten review too many in the New York Times, I couldn't resist a takedown. I offer my stab below as a counterpoint to the strained, cutesy-pootsy, try-too-hard-y style of restaurant criticism ("a flummoxed swain whispers," fer chrissakes) that has infested food writing like a toxic foam.
Islands in the Extreme
Wards Island is the new frontier for empirical cuisine along the husky Harlem River corridor, and the city's most evasive diners have flocked in dribbles to this tabernacle of taste-itude in the under-shadow of the Manhattan Psychiatric Center. Chef de cuisine Fennimore Schlachthaus, who was recently deputy hijiki gleaner at Ø, the acclaimed sea-fowl rôtisserie in Nordkjosbotn, brings a swarthy fancy to his long-threatened stateside plunge. Hie thee to O tempura! O morels!
Upon entering, a whimsically grimy door-herald will shout-inquire why you have come, and how you have found OTOM. Upon my first visit, I found this quaintly astringent greeting to be perhaps a selection from the ever-shuffling playlist of The New Eating but after a few subsequent visits, I realized this charming Charon was merely a playfully murderous gate-keeper to the vagabondage you are about to persevere. Faintly responsive greet-wenches shuffle you into a faithful reproduction of the Khartoum Paddleball Club members' lounge. Wistful odors of fescue hay tantalizingly bruise your nostrils as you viciously palpate the hastily offered worry pebbles while your feed-slab is negotiated. Your eyes will slowly adjust to the hazy mists of the moist concrete samba and the coughing will stop, eventually.
The high-meat pupu platter ($23.91), an astral array of gently demoralized carrion, is inflicted upon the table with vials of artisanal ammonia bitters. Will New Yorkers' yen for operose charcuterie ever dessicate like a raisin in the sun? The meat was unforgettable.
Brunost-harassed kohlrabi hash ($24.07), as our serveperson described in a lilting pastourelle, is inspired by a Novokuznetsk cabbagewife collective’s canning diktat from the Potash Years. This flustered whinny of a zakuska elicited a curious hex. Reader, I ate it.
Elk takoyaki snuggle up belligerently with Fabuloso-braised cardoons in bird sauce ($78 per carton), and carbonized farm fritters ($0.73), bottomed with pulchritudinous parsley pollen, prime the papillae for a Seussian romp through prairies of memory-flecked whoompitude. Traditional Lahori pancetta scrapple ($13), dunked in Zamzam acqua and winnowed tableside, provides a toothsome buccal squirt. You’ll be gasping for praise!
I would fain reorder the Ulmensterben diptych (market price), a threatening belch of woodsy doom, but various international health and human-trafficking statues dictate availability.
Dare the gustatory pilgrim shun the ambrosial call of ovine bliss and forgo the prickly tang of ricotta sotto mattone ($18.77)? Nay, heed the hornpipe and let the lush layers of silky struggle envelop your tongue with lapping waves of felicity and oneiric piri-piri uppercuts.
Served on turd-gravel, huitlacoche's brawny boo-yah smears daintily through thickets of hog maw for a zingy zoot suit of swiny swagger in the Pork Smut Plop ($29.60). Mutton tenders in hot minnow oil ($5.24) grimaced leeringly and tickled the boundaries of moral rectitude. I'll have three, please!
The sultry grzane piwo, proffered from a traditional lime-preserved sow's uterus in 10 ml catheter droplets, immediately brought my dinner companions back to Simone's engagement cabal in the Drakensberg escarpment. We giggled with delight, but you wouldn't understand.
Water is not available.
Desserts, who knew? Firefly confit upon wax lips ($5.88-$23.00) is a challenging liberation, and New Zealand sheep dag clods in titanium vark ($19.84) were like November poetry. Fermented sorghum sludge on chipped dry ice ($6 per scrape) brought back repressed memories of the Liaoning Assault Fair.
Molecular gastroenteritis has landed at long last between the Bronx Kill and the proposed Yorkville waste transfer station. Steer your sloop Wards Island ho, for such staggering esculent audacity surely will not stay secret for long!
O tempura! O morels!
12¼ Sunken Meadow Loop, Sub-basement 6K
Photographers and Yelpers will be eviscerated sur place.