I spend a lot of time being physically uncomfortable: Nine times out of ten, I’m probably cold; exercise only feels good when you’re done; a lot of clothing appropriate for the office always has a way of needing to be adjusted; eight hours a day at a desk is demanding even with an ergonomic chair; and even though I try to get away with only 15 minutes of rush hour train travel a day, my face in someone’s armpit while the corner of someone else’s oversize bag threatens my kidney like a shank is a physical torment so regular that New Yorkers can easily forget to complain about it. There are those times, though, when I might be dressed warmly enough in clothes that don’t pull, twist, or chafe, far from the gym, and riding the train at an off-peak hour to enjoy some non-desk time at a restaurant. Relief is only temporary as I’m confronted by a tiny room with backless stools where a polar vortex occurs every time someone opens the door (or in summer, by industrial A/C). I fully admit to being a Goldilocks, but I previously pointed out that the discomfort of NYC dining is very much a thing.
As much as I was interested in dining at Untitled for the critical praise it has received, I also wanted to go because I knew I would be comfortable. In the times I have visited the relocated Whitney Museum of American Art, where Untitled is located, I had walked by the glass-encased restaurant admiring its upholstered mid-century modern chairs and the large swath of space that protects diners from any draughty door. The picture-worthy food was secondary to me making a reservation and splurging on being comfortable while someone else made me food and did the dishes. I was pretty confident that the food would more than do, however.
My visit was on a holiday Monday, so I received a brunch menu instead of the lunch one I had been stalking online. I was a little disappointed as I had thought about trying the beef tartare, but its absence made it less difficult to decide on a vegetable starter because now I could order two. (I had stalked enough to decide I wanted to explore the menu through two starters and a main.)
While a vegetable-heavy menu is on trend both with restaurants and one’s health, the two aren’t the best of friends. Which suits me fine, because the oil that slicked the florets and the plate reminded me of the hot pan that helped achieve the brassica’s golden edges. The custard’s richness was the cue that this was more than a simple plate of vegetables. The custard also helped to cut the lemon, which was a bit overwhelming for me. The cardamom was present but not dominant, so no worries of the cauliflower tasting like a Swedish dessert.
Two bites into this sunchoke dish and all I could think of was a loaded steakhouse baked potato and how happy I was not to have to share this bowl with anyone.
The fried and roasted chicken plate has been one of the popular menu items since the restaurant opened. I don’t swoon for fried chicken, but you know I do for doughy carbs. When I saw that the item had been updated to include spaetzle, I was all over it. Chicken and dumplings for the Ladies Who Lunch. Love. The crisp skin was impeccable, but softening it in the gravy-like jus pooled at the bottom wasn’t a wrong move. The roasted flesh cozied up nicely next to the dumplings when taken together.
My chair was too comfortable to leave, so it was not hard for me say yes to dessert despite not paying attention to my satisfied hunger. I was having too much fun watching people line up for the gallery or the late lunch stragglers like myself. I should now probably reconsider how I talk about my feelings on cake, but “the girl who doesn’t like cake” went with the mango upside-down version. The day was beyond grey, and I was rewarded with ample colour and a moist, sticky muffin-sized cake that did not give up a single crumb in dryness. The peppercorn was not discernible, which was too bad. The cooked mango was full of flavour, but a contrasting element would have been welcome. The mild fat of the unsweetened cream (maybe it was creme fraiche?) was nice, but neither it, the fresh mango, nor the freeze-dried raspberries could stand up to the cooked fruit and cake. But this is just a quibble for the sake of blogging, as I was overall pleasantly surprised with how much I liked this dessert.
When I stood, leaving the warmth of my chair and bursting the bubble of the last few hours, I received as cold a slap to my face as the one the wintry mix falling outside would soon bestow: I was uncomfortably full.