Social Eatz
232 East 53rd (2nd/3rd), Midtown East

Not only are we big Top Chef fans, but also loved Angelo’s former sandwich shop, Xie Xie, so we were really excited to hear that his new place opened last week. Although, I have to admit that hearing the name and location, Social Eatz in midtown east, already left me scratching my head and wondering about the concept. Walking into the restaurant doesn’t add clarification, the decor is modern, the lights are low, the music is electro-popish, and the menu is Asian street food, I guess? It consists of apps, salads, burgers, tacos, sides, desserts, about three in each category. On its Facebook page, Social Eatz says its simple and fun with Asian comfort food. I get that desire, but there is definitely confusion in execution. The decor and service, which was very attentive, set up the diner for a real sit-down meal, not a spring roll and taco, for instance. But all this really doesn’t matter much if the food is what we perceive as Top Chef caliber. Let’s see…

There is a lot of Korean influence, but also flavors from Japan, India, Thailand, etc. We tried several dishes with mixed results: The soba noodle salad had a strong sweet flavor with candied bits, mostly balanced by scallions. It was different and I liked it. The bulgogi burger was disappointing. It was a little small (and I don’t love huge burgers) and had a kimchee topping, but not much flavor in the burger or topping. Plus it had a lot of grizzle for a little burger. The first bit I chewed, but the second was tough and I had to spit out. The meats are supposedly high quality, but didn’t taste like it to me. The bibimpop burger looked better. The Kung Pao Wow is a chicken sandwich that was the best of what we ordered. Its peanut sauce was delicious and went well with the shredded cucumber topping. But again, the chicken seemed kind of fatty, and maybe that is more authentic, but was tasted more like what you’d get at Quizno’s. The cream spinach has cheesy and creamy with lots of Indian spice, and it was good on its own, but didn’t mesh flavor-wise with the rest.

I hate to be this critical of a place, especially a new place, but a Top Chef All-Star does carry high expectations and Angelo will draw huge numbers of fans based on his fame and reputation. So we will see what happens here, it is really early to tell. I know its unfair to be so critical, it’s like going into a classroom the first week of school and expecting the teacher to have a perfect class. But frankly, Social Eatz is just confused with its name, concept, and food. Angelo’s former eatery, Xie Xie (see our review), had three Asian-inspired sandwiches (the Vietnamese beef was incredible), and knew it was a sandwich shop. It had a great Hell’s Kitchen location and modern style. The name didn’t matter because the concept and food were clear. Social Eatz is all over the place. Does the name mean its communal or bar food? So overall, we were not impressed and I don’t want to make a personal judgment about Angelo, because I don’t know him, but he does seem scattered on TC and his new place definitely needs some straightening out. Plus, the website isn’t even functioning yet. That’s a big issue to me. How do you open an eatery without a website? How difficult is it to design a quick webpage? The one thing that saved our experience was the Daily Candy discount of $15 for $30 of food. Plus the prices are reasonable, so at least you are not paying much here…

Advertisements