When my friend suggested Chez Sardine, the last addition to the Little Wisco empire, for dinner, I expected fancy French food. However, I was shocked to look at the menu to see Sushi and other Japanese inspired dishes. With an extremely open mind, we headed to the West Village extremely early, in anticipation of a long wait for the a table.
Two hours later, and a few drinks at Wilfie & Nell later, we came back to Chez Sardine in hopes of being seated. The restaurant is surprisingly tiny, with a few tables in the back of the restaurant and stools for bar seating. Even though the restaurant is tiny, it doesn’t feel cramped or overly crowded. It’s an extremely comfortable setting, and even while you wait, the staff is extremely friendly and attentive.
I sipped on a glass of chilled sake, while we spoke to Chad, the attractive waiter rocking a beanie, about the menu. We pined over each dish, and how we actually wanted to order the entire menu. Everything seemed more unusual and decadent then the last dish, making the decisions extremely difficult. Ironically enough, the group of three friends waiting for a table next to us did end up ordering the entire menu — pretty awesome.
Ultimately, we couldn’t decide what to order, and opted to leave our fate in Chad’s hands. With the ordering out of our hands, we waited in pure anticipation for the first course to arrive.
Cod Fritters arrived with a squeeze bottle filled with Sriracha on the side.
We squeezed the lemon juice on top of the fritters and then dug into the warm pieces of cod, fresh out of the fryer. The fritters were crunchy and sweet, with the flakey pieces of cod inside retaining a creamy texture. The addition of Sriracha is necessary, even for those who don’t like spice. It weirdly makes such a big difference, adding an element of heat to cut through the richness of the fritter and the mayonnaise on the side. These are phenomenal to start.
After we essentially licked the plate clean, the next course arrived. Two hand rolls, one with Unagi and Pork, the other with Spicy Tuna and Crunch.
The Unagi and Pork hand roll was unlike anything else I have ever tried. The combination of eel and pork where unusual, but it totally worked. Fresh pieces of nori contained the sticky rice and the rich meat inside. Land and Sea comes together into a delicious hand roll, that I loved.
The Spicy Tuna roll was really good, but not unlike any other version of the dish. If you love spicy tuna, this will be your favorite version. But for someone who doesn’t have this as their first choice, this would be the only dish I would skip next time.
Chad then stopped by to check in on our progression of the meal. At this time, he asked if it would be okay to add caviar to the meal. It was a really classy move for him to check with us before adding one of the more expensive items to our meal. We had heard wonderful things about the caviar and butter toast, and happily added it to the line up.
Decadence at its’ finest. Scooped pile of American Bowfin Caviar sits on top of a lightly toasted piece of bread. Melted butter adds an additional layer of richness that seeps into every crevice of the bread. Little pieces of caviar burst in your mouth with each bite, mixing with the sweet pieces of butter. It’s hard to truly describe the innate heavenly nature to this dish. In this situation, a picture is not worth a thousand words, you just need to go to Chez Sardine and try this for yourself. I promise you’ll be dreaming about it’s rich flavor. Caviar is something so unique and wonderful, that nothing else can ever measure up.
Next, pieces of sushi, lined up with such delicacy on a clean white plate appeared in front of us.
The unconventional sushi prepared at Chez Sardine might be the best item on the menu. The combinations are bold but completely harmonious. We started left to right, with the hamachi. Artfully sliced pieces of hamachi sit on top of sushi rice, with a sliver of chicharron and ginger. The light piece of fish is lightly covered with soy and then the sliver of ginger, which adds a tiny hint of heat, followed by the subtle crunch of the chicharron.
Raw chopped scallop is topped with a raw quail egg and trout roe. The richness of the egg yolk mixes with the creamy raw scallop, followed by the bursts of trout roe. The playful textures give a depth of flavor to the piece of sushi. It’s delicious.
Just when you think it can’t get any better, Chez Sardine combines beef and sea urchin. Whoever made this dish is a pure culinary genius. The unbelievably decadent uni has a creamy texture, which is counter-balanced by the chilled beef tartare and crunchy nori. Phenomenal is the only way to describe this roll, and until you have tried it you will never understand the true decadence of the Uni and Beef roll.
The next dish to arrive was the night’s special, Arctic Char Belly.
I wish all pieces of fish could taste this decadent. The char belly melted in my mouth with the crunch of the fish skin added texture and flavor. The jalapeno yogurt was surprising in flavor, with the burst of heat from the chili which was simultaneously mellowed out by the yogurt. The conflicting textures and flavors totally worked. The crunch of the nori and feta made such a difference with the flavor profile, packing even more punch to the dish. It really had everything, but just enough. They stopped before it got too crazy. Moral of the dish, if there is a special, definitely order it.
Next, the grilled octopus arrived. A dish we probably wouldn’t have ordered on our own since Amber doesn’t usually go for this type of seafood. However, it was one of our favorite parts of the meal.
With all of the decadent dishes with Chez Sardine, the charred octopus dish is a lot more rustic. The octopus was charred, giving a smoky char, while keeping the inside moist and full of flavor. The yogurt was the most interesting part to the dish, and I felt like I could have licked the bowl clean. Adding bacon, tomato and lettuce was a great play on the classic old school, B.L.T. sandwich I used to have in middle school. Once again, the combination of textures and levels of flavors played so well off each other that I couldn’t resist going back for more. The dish is on the smaller side and definitely worth adding to the meal.
We finished off already one of the best meals with the king of all grilled cheeses; the foie gras and smoked cheddar grilled cheese.
This is decadence on top of decadence rounded out with more decadence. Foie gras is the epitome of luxurious foods, forbidden in certain states and priced on the extremely high end, its richness is unmatched. So when a place wants to take this high end product, and put it between two pieces of bread and panini press it, it better be good. Here, it’s extraordinary. If I had to have a last request for a grilled cheese sandwich, it would definitely be this. The smoked cheddar cheese infuses a smokiness into the sandwich. The cheese melts down to a gooey, creamy consistency, but not to the point where it’s stringy and messy. This stays much more contained between the two pieces of bread from Sullivan St. Bakery, which are slathered with butter and grilled until golden brown. The foie gras adds such a meaty, early richness which rounds out the dish.
Point being, this grilled cheese is out of control.
After all of the decadance, we needed something sweet to end the meal. Luckily, Chez Sardine has you covered. Every patron receives a little bowl of maple pudding with crispy rice on top.
The perfect ending bite of sweetness with the crispy rice to cut through the decadence of the maple pudding. I finished the little thimble very quickly, completely satisfied with a little bit of sweetness to round out the meal.
While it might have seemed like a lot of food, I left feeling totally satisfied without being overly full. It was easily one of the best meals I have enjoyed in a long while. It was decadent, rich and completely luxurious, without putting a real dent on the wallet. After sharing everything and a few drinks, you can definitely feel high end without spending the big bucks.
Chez Sardine is phenomenal and is definitely a welcome new addition to the New York City dining scene. It will be one of the hot spots to top everyone’s list as soon as it becomes fully discovered. The sushi is exceptional, breaking all conventional thoughts about this classic Japanese dish. The pairings of Uni and Beef make me questioning anything and everything I thought about sushi. The other flavor pairings are equally decadent and wonderful, with the grilled cheese making me want more and the caviar butter toast leaving me to question why I can’t always eat this way.
To put it bluntly, make your way to Chez Sardine as soon as possible, because soon enough the two hour waits will turn to four at this slightly well-kept secret spot that’s already turning heads and changing culinary lives. And don’t be afraid to trust the wait staff to help orchestrate your meal, they are pure professionals and will give you everything you want and more.
Chez Sardine – 183 West 10th Street – New York, NY
Location: West Village, NY
Type: Japanese, Sushi
Perfect For: Impressing Foodies, Quality Seafood, Special Occasions, Small Plates, Adventurous Eating, Date Night
Reservations: Recommended, if you can get it, they become available 2 weeks ahead of time
Favorite Dishes: Foie Gras and Smoked Cheddar Grilled Cheese, Caviar and Butter Toast, Uni and Beef Sushi, Pork and Unagi Hand Roll, Chopped Scallop Sushi, Charred Octopus