Pete Wells on Lowlife: Proceed With Caution



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New York Times Food Critic Pete Wells is confused by how he feels about Lowlife, but that’s at least in part because Lowlife may be confused about what it is. “One minute, I want to stand on Stanton Street holding the door open while I give tips to diners on their way in: order the guinea-hen sausage, don’t miss the lamb tartare, above all eat the yakitori chicken,” the review begins. “The next, I want to form a one-man human chain across the entrance and warn hungry people to go somewhere else.”

Lowlife opened in November on the Lower East Side, and serves some of the Newest New American food in town right now- think things like guinea hen sausage with a sourdough sauce for dipping, and borscht with trout roe and raw cream. While Wells enjoyed most of the food, however, it’s expensive for the neighborhood and the service can be “bizarrely pretentious.”

One unequivocally excellent thing about Lowlife is the physical space. Everyone seems to agree on one thing: Lowlife looks like a sauna, and in this case, that’s a compliment. Wells described the smell of the raw pine walls as “invigorating,” and he “loved the sense of open space.” He described the general feel as being “Semi-Scandanavian,” but warmer.

The dish Wells enjoyed most was the yakitori chicken. “Cut up and blackened over charcoal, the bird has deep natural flavor and is brushed with a citrus-tinged glaze that is, by several miles, the best teriyaki sauce I have ever tasted,” he said.

Where the restaurant makes a wrong turn is with the service. Dirty plates were cleared “solemnly and ceremoniously….Dishes were ‘introduced’…Fussiness this extreme would be out of place at Le Bernardin. At a Lower East Side restaurant where you listen to Kendrick Lamar, Stereolab and Ryan Adams while eating teriyaki chicken, it’s lunacy.”

The verdict? One star. Proceed with caution.

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