Date Night in Soho
From the name, we thought this might be a regular haunt for Courtney Cox's character from the TV show Cougar Town, and we weren't too far off base. Better as a get-to-know-you date spot rather than a meat market, Lair is a like a less exclusive (and less overly hyped) La Esquina, which is just a few doors down. This loungey restaurant with cave drawings and smooth leather banquettes doesn't aim to be too serious, and in this town that can be a good thing.
Its collection of small plates shows an understanding of well-melded Asian fusion flavors and an ear for buzzy ingredients like roasted marrow and crispy chicken skin. While dishes have charismatic ingredient pairings like chicken and foie gras dumplings and crispy wontons packed with a lobster salad with bacon and avocado, it's also just great drunk food.
In a couple cases, the playfulness didn't pan out. On the night we went, the mango "noodles" were julienned and limp, and positively swimming in the chili lime juice/sauce. Better were the chicken "pillows" with the curious but tasty Johnny Blue sauce. Could this Johnny Blue fellow be a friend of chef Chris Cheung, former Monkey Bar chef and native New Yorker raised in Chinatown?
Cheung's traditional Cantonese roots even show up on the impressively creative cocktail menu in the five-spiced Mamma Mule Feel Good (which does, in fact, make you feel very good), a vodka-apricot-ginger beer combo with a kick. We chose another glass of the delicious, peachy sangria over dessert, but the spiced nut-crusted marshmallows seemed perfect for feeding your date. If your date is going well...