Cherrywood, in Soho, was a breath of fresh air, both from the overwhelming crowds of Mercer Street and the stifling afternoon heat last Wednesday. A new addition to a quieter part of town, Cherrywood offers a gilded interpretation of classic Asian and American flavors.
The décor is understated, almost a little generic with its blood-red curtains and eponymous wood accents strewn about the restaurant, high-ceilinged and classic like a more minimal boudoir. It is sprawling in all aspects and ends up feeling a little less intimate than the name Cherrywood Kitchen would suggest, but Cherrywood Study or Cherrywood Living Room ends up making more of a mouthful than the food. The upper catwalk of the main room had bookshelves and oddities along the shelves, which I craved more of than the small peek I received in gazing around.
The drink menu offers six cocktails, perfect for two to sample throughout an evening, and a reliable, if basic wine selection. The cocktails were what piqued my curiosity, utilizing an array of fresh fruits and ingredients, from the simple, but vibrant Botanical Gimlet, with Hendrick’s, tonic, lime, and cucumber, to the clever in the Cherrywood margarita, whose flavors were reminiscent of a craft cherry limeade. The vodka cider was my personal favorite – simple, clean flavors that perfectly complemented the ribs, with a punch of Cointreau to withstand the strong flavors of the meat.
The Bedfellow was partial to her Manhattan, made with smoked orange peel. A serviceable sangria and delicate blood orange prosecco finished out the meal, before coffee and dessert wine. (Clockwise: Cherrywood margarita, vodka cider, blood orange prosecco, Manhattan, and Taylor Fladgate)
Our meal began with a selection of small appetizers and bread, the latter of which put other bread baskets to shame. Freshly baked ciabatta with whipped bleu cheese butter was en point, crispy and ethereally light on the inside, with a tender, flaky crunch. Tearing into it with our hands increased the satisfaction. Smeared with the earthy, equally light butter, we unabashedly ate two loaves in the blink of an eye.
We shared three small plates in lieu of larger appetizers – the miniature lobster ‘tacos’ with Old Bay hollandaise, short rib spring rolls, and housemade pickles. Syntactically, my eyes always gravitate toward interpretive dishes that riff off other dishes, it appeals to my meta aesthetics and inability to let go of my childhood whimsy. Luckily, this trend is rampant in modern cuisine, and even luckier, the lobster ‘tacos’ actually were tacos, served in petite hard taco shells made of spring roll dough, brimming with large, tender chunks of lobster. The egginess of the hollandaise disappeared amidst the bolder spices, the Old Bay reigned supreme. Three was an unwieldy number, and a contentious battle followed between the Bedfellow and I for the last bite.
The bite-sized spring rolls were devils in disguise, the crispy outer shells yielding to savory, succulent pieces of short rib, but they were elevated to a new level of appetizer elation with the au jus on the side, silky and deep with a slow-roasted flavor that we dipped the rolls, bread, tacos, and sneakily, our fingers in before we’d had enough.
Our final plate, the housemade pickles, were surprisingly varied in color and variety. I was expecting something of the bread and butter variety and received a Crayola-colored selection of snackable vegetables with a pungent, sweet set of flavors. Paired with crisp butter-roasted peanuts, it brought to mind a deconstructed Pad Thai.
The entrée selection sways from tastefully flashy to wriggling, almost uncomfortable levels of excitement – the tuna belly, caviar, heirloom tomato, and foie gras stuffed ribeye had an air of attention-seeking decadence whose description alone could have filled and killed us. It is easier to find satisfaction on the quirkier side of Cherrywood’s menu – the freshly killed, smoked chicken stuffed with eel, though technically apprehensive at times (tougher pieces of fat left on the bone and spines left in some parts of the eel) was robust both in portion and flavor.
We found greater harmony in the cherrywood-smoked ribs, intertwining Asian and American flavors with a deft, tender hand. The ribs had been cooked to perfection, nary a piece of fat or gristle left atop them, and carried a courageous, bold flavor balanced with soy, fish sauce and ginger to counteract the richer barbecue notes – ribs that have traveled, but do not forget their roots in Americana. Alongside a cool apple slaw (made with ‘local’ apples whose lineage I’m a hair inclined to dispute, as the Big Apple is more likely to outsource its apples to upstate rather than grow them in the metropolitan area itself), they were minimally garnished and correct in preparation.
After a brief repose to finish the last of our cocktails and gather our minds and stomachs for dessert, we studied the dessert menu, whose Franco-American-Asian pastries carried even more of a globe trot rather than a layover. Chef Cheung proves his hand in sweet as well as savory, especially with the cookies and cream, banana macaron, and coconut ice cream dessert, where caramelized bananas and milk chocolate mousse are nestled in light macaron shells in lieu of buttercream, alongside a pleasant, if somewhat redundant cookie crumble on the bottom, which, if nothing else, made for a decent textural diversion. The macaron shells are better sized to an American palate, far larger than their French descendants, but no less delicate and finely made.
The sesame fritters, recommended by our server, were baffling with an unexpected beauty
. I was expecting a dessert dripping with honey, something similar to a Moroccan halwa chebakia, but was pleased to be presented with compact, dense balls covered in sesame with an unidentifiable, but glutinous, doughy interior similar to mochi
, a stud of bittersweet chocolate in the center.The Taylor Fladgate 20, a classically sweet conclusion, mirrored the nutty, chocolatey flavors of the dessert.
Cherrywood is an approachably luxurious repose in the heat of the summer
, and makes for a great dinner if you’re in the area and need a break from shopping or running around. They’ve been open for around six weeks and are already creating fascinating, innovative dishes
that left us hungry for more from this Soho smoker. (Thanks to the team for having us by!)