It only took seeing “gochujang wings” and “Momofuku Noodle Bar veteran” in an article about Distilled to convince me. Our friend Colin had already visited and said the wings were “weird”, but they apparently weren’t weird enough that he wouldn’t come back, so he joined my friends Nik and Tim and me there one day after work to share what felt like a whole lot of food at the time but turned out to be just a little bit of southern comfort food and a whole lot of wine, mead, and cocktails made of wine and mead.
These wings are not weird. Well, unless you consider it weird that they were exactly as over-the-top crunchy as you’ve always wanted wings to be but never are. And unless you consider it weird that the sweet/spicy fermented gochujang sauce was so sticky I could peel the batter off in two-inch strips and eat just that if I wanted to. And I wanted to. The chicken was fine, too. But GOCHUJANG.
chilled charred broccoli, peanuts, duck bacon, pickled watermelon rind
Tim insisted that we order this because he cares about health and bowel movements, and you can bet I was loudly protesting in my head, but there was so much going on in this dish I couldn’t be mad. Namely duck bacon in thick slabs. The crunch of the peanuts, the tang of the watermelon, the zesty little greens. I wouldn’t have been offended had this been my main dish.
country fried duck & waffles, French toast style waffle, smoked chili maple syrup, whipped honey butter, Thai basil
I almost want to just let you read the components of the dish and leave it at that, because this was exactly as good as you think fried duck over a waffle with spicy maple syrup would be. The interesting part was that the duck was boneless and had the texture of pulled pork, like it had been cooked, torn apart, and then reassembled before being fried in that thick coating. I didn’t notice anything French toasty about the waffle, but it may have been that I was too busy licking honey butter off of everything in sight, including myself.
glazed pork ribs, jalapeno, delfino (cilantro), compressed watermelon salad
The meat slid off these bones in one big hunk, disappointing those in our group who enjoy slathering their entire faces in sauce while trying to awkwardly nibble a rib, but those of us who will take a knife and fork to soup if given the chance really appreciated the opportunity to slice through these suckers. The jalapeno was just spicy enough to offset the sweet sauce but not spicy enough that a heat-hater would even take note of it. I expected the watermelon salad with its herbs and dressing to be very savory, but it was still a sweet watermelon salad, just a very dense one thanks to the compression.
Nik was pretty excited about those ribs.
New York strip steak, bone marrow black garlic butter, sauteed spinach, onion ring
If there’s one thing I took away from dating a Persian guy, it’s a love of black garlic. His mom had homemade jars of the sweet and sour fermented stuff in her garage, and I wanted to order this based on it alone. Oh, yeah, and the bone marrow. Also the onion ring. The steak was overcooked for my taste, but I’m not in the habit of expecting a perfect medium-rare at a non-steakhouse. It was still plenty tender and made all the more luxurious by that rich, silky butter.
the view from the patio at Distilled
Sitting on the raised patio outside Distilled, eating this southern food with an Asian twist and watching the fine people of TriBeCa with their dogs and on their longboards, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that particularly New Yorky. The food was delicious and hearty if not challenging and delicate, and the cocktail menu with mead from upstate NY reflected that same dedication to solid, unfussy pub fare. I stepped inside only to check in with the hostess, so I can’t comment on the interior atmosphere, but I can say for sure that the patio will be one of my go-to places this summer.
211 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013 (map)