Restaurant review

Restaurant Review: Hidden Leaf

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Getting to Hidden Leaf, under any other name, would be a bit boring. It doesn’t have a Manhattan address in the sense that addresses on the island mostly follow common sense formulas with intersections like, say, 33rd Street and 10th Avenue, which is an easier way to identify the approximate coordinates of Hidden Leaf as “75 Manhattan West”. Plaza”, its official designation. Imagine trying that in a taxi.

It’s not the restaurant’s fault. As larger, fancier malls called “developments” continue to engulf Midtown West, renaming it this or that, we’re going to end up with more made-up destinations. I recently traveled to this one from another, through no fault of my own, at nearby Hudson Yards which sent my map app into a minor spiral and created more confusion and wasted time than if the slots had just been numbered normally.

Hidden Leaf is the latest restaurant from successful Brooklyn restaurateur Josh Cohen, whose popular previous ventures include At My Aunt and Lilia’s. It opened in July, surrounded by a concrete plaza bounded by 9th and 10th Avenues and 31st and 33rd Streets and darkened enough inside the Midnight Theater performance hall to invite obvious jokes about its proper name. It is joined in the cloistered rectangle by a Whole Foods and a Peloton showroom. The view of both from some of the cozy and intimate cabins that line the spacious space contrasts with her lovely interior. Chef Chai Trivedi’s menu (buddakan, tamarind) is influenced by southern China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam with success.

Beef for two has recently been in the new, as a famous New York steakhouse slashed the price of its double doorman to $99 and, in a charming old-fashioned multimedia campaign, taunted its contemporaries about their own higher prices. Hidden Leaf isn’t a steakhouse (it’s billed as “a pan-Asian gourmet adventure to share”), but it does serve a fine 28-day dry-aged rib eye that is – and it almost never happens – actually big enough to share for $48. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this explicitly advertised elsewhere for double the price. It’s nicely buttery and suitably funky but, above all, that expected funk lies between the subtle and the downright tangy. It should appeal to both the devoted and the indifferent to form. The broad appeal also speaks a bit about this part of town and helps establish Hidden Leaf as an easy option for convenience seekers (near some offices) and sightseers (near some sights).

The Wok Fried Lobster with XO Butter, Rice Noodle Salad and Wild Mushrooms ($54) is also well proportioned, although easier for one to finish. Its meat has an aroma as fresh and almost sweet as any, fun to release from its shell as always, and the accompanying mushrooms are exceptional: plump, substantial and slightly earthy, pair beautifully here, and are even worth a plate on their own.

Another standout seafood is among the entrees, the grilled halibut cha ca with turmeric and dill on a duo of skewers ($20). It’s light and flaky and deliciously moist with a bit of zippy chấm nước. The rustic cumin lamb meatballs ($19) in the dim sum section are heartier with the punchy notes of their titular ingredients and appropriately thick wrapper. Wooden Ear Mushrooms are also well done with pleasantly fluffy wok-roasted rice cakes coated in ginger-soya lime ($19) and grouped in the veggie/tofu category.

The “classic house” cocktails are mostly standards. The Thimble Sipper (amchoor, Japanese whiskey, bitters) is supposed to “lift the old-school classic”, but it turns out a little too sweet with less body and depth of flavor. A “Spicy Sichuan Pineapple Margarita” ($18) is good, if apparently lacking in its fragrant numbing spices. Beer and wine are also available, as is a $7 carafe of sparkling water that’s unlimited, at least.

It might seem a little confusing to get into these seemingly pre-made pockets, but Hidden Leaf elevates this one, and it’s a good place to keep in mind the next time you find yourself in the area.

Vitals:

The atmosphere: Sleek and a bit sexy despite its concrete mall surroundings.

The food: billed as “a pan-Asian culinary adventure to share” with outstanding steak and wok fried lobster with terrific mushrooms.

The drinks: Cocktails, wines and beers.

Timing tip: Ignore address. Approach the area around 33rd Street and 10th Avenue and head towards the front of the Midnight Theater: Hidden Leaf is inside upstairs.

The hidden leaf is located at “75 Manhattan West Plaza”. It is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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