When dining out in NYC with a group of more than, say, two people, it can be challenging to find a venue that meets the expectations of both those seeking delicious food and those more interested in experiencing a hot, “night life” scene. Lair Restaurant and Lounge, which opened in Nolita last October, aims to bring together the best of both worlds. Featuring Asian-Fusion cuisine billed as ‘Modern Dimsum’ and potent, eclectic cocktails, all served amid a cozy-yet-cutting edge décor that’s part urban safari and part goth, Lair is a glittering jewel nestled in this up-and-coming trendy neighborhood.
A near-perfect hybrid of restaurant and bar, Lair’s limited menu serves a satisfying selection of light snacks and heartier appetizer ‘small plates’ created by talented Chef Chris Cheung (Nobu, Monkey Bar), who has also figured out a way to ‘keep it Kosher.’ After being seated by our very friendly hostess on plush banquettes surrounding a good sized, low table, we ordered a round of cocktails including the house made red and white sangrias, the much-hyped-by-our-server Mr. Hot Pants and the Mamma Mule Feel Good. Mr. Hot Pants’ “weird” blend of Herradura reposado, mescal, campari, passionfruit and Thai chili pepper agave, while dubbed “interesting,” was frankly too unpleasant tasting for any of us to take more than a sip. On the other hand, both sangrias were bright and fruity and the Mamma Mule (Absolut Vodka, cinnamon five spice syrup, apricot & ginger beer) combined a nice kick with a refreshingly accessible yet exotic blend of flavors.
Please enjoy these pictures of and commentary on the food we ordered:
As a starter for the table, we were encouraged to try the Chinese Chips With Housemade Duck Sauce ($4), which mixes taro chips with fried wonton skins. Nice!
The Chicken ‘Pillows’ with Crispy Chicken Skin ($12) was one of my favorites. The tender chicken meatballs were perfectly accented by the salty, crispy chicken skin “chips” that accompanied it. Decadent for sure, but so worth indulging in.
Being a devoted follower of Top Chef, I’d been curious to try Lair’s take on Roasted Bone Marrow, served here topped with X/O Marmalade alongside crispy Scallion Pancakes ($9). Don’t let the words “Bone Marrow” make you squeamish, it’s just like a buttery tasting spread. The Scallion pancakes were excellent.
Those counting their calories might like to try the Mango ‘Noodles’ Salad with Rock Shrimp and Chili Lime ($7). This salad of julienne mango and raw vegetables was very fresh and light-tasting but needed a bit of additional seasoning (even salt would have helped) to perk up the bland, broth-like dressing.
Warm Coconut Bao Bread with 5 Spice Local Honey Hoisin Butter ($5), a signature creation of Chef Cheung, was sweet enough for dessert but not so sweet that it didn’t also compliment our more savory dishes. I would definitely recommend you order this for your table.
Also succulent and satisfying were the (pictured top to bottom) Dry Aged Black Angus Beef Dumplings ($10) and the Chicken & Foie Gras San Jin Dumplings ($10). Another vegetarian-friendly selection, Eggplant & Mushroom Shumai ($7) was enjoyed by the non-meat eaters at our table.
For dessert we indulged in the Shanghai Walnut Crusted Marshmallows ($7), a ring of lightly toasted marshmallows resting on a pillow of fresh whipped cream, lightly drizzled with caramel sauce and chopped nuts – absolutely delicious and a perfect finale to our fabulous meal.
Not Pictured is the Lobster, Bacon & Avocado Salad in Crispy Wonton Rolls ($12), which along with the Chicken Pillows was my favorite dish of the evening. Also on the menu are Oysters on the Half Shell with Seared Scallop & Truffle Essence ($13), House Salad with Ginger Dressing ($6) and Pickled Root Vegetables with Roasted Peanut ($5) as well as a couple of other desserts.
For those high rollers with money to burn, Lair shifts gears after 11:00 PM with an emphasis on bottle service and exclusive VIP seating. Indeed, Lair Restaurant and Lounge offers a scene for every nearly every taste!
Update: Sadly this restaurant is now closed for business.
Lair is located at 201 Lafayette Street between Broome and Kenmare.