We're not sure what recent market research indicated that Tribeca desperately needed two more upscale bar food restaurants, but that's what the neighborhood got this summer, and they opened up right next door to each other. Michael White's "supper club" The Butterfly and this new "American public house" called Distilled are about two hundred yards apart, and they both serve pricey cocktails and simple food in a relaxed setting. I guess the locals around here like their food casual and their cocktails swizzled. Or at least that's what these two restaurants are hoping. Also, why did that sound dirty?
We've visited Distilled a few times now and we're not particularly fond of it. First of all, the room is massive. This place feels less like a "public house" and more like an "airplane hangar." Second, there always seems to be a little bit of chaos going on, most likely as a result of trying to feed a full airplane hangar worth of patrons at once. The restaurant is usually packed full of people, most of whom are after a plate of chicken wings, thanks to a few local hype machines that called them out as the best in New York within a few days of the grand opening. We both tried them on separate occasions and can't say we were all that impressed.
Honestly, nothing that we've eaten at Distilled has impressed us, and we're at the point where we're definitely not going to keep coming back until something does. The restaurant has no vibe, and other than the drinks (when can we stop being so impressed with mixology?) we can't really find any redeeming qualities. What does it mean when one of the most popular things on the menu is the free popcorn they give every table? Probably that you should have dinner next door.
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Yes, that's right. Just like your local book fair, Distilled serves free popcorn. It's dusted with brewers yeast and cumin, and people seem to love it. As for us, we're not so into the communal popcorn thing. It's one of the reasons we don't go to movies. That, and people.
We ordered some oysters on our first visit to Distilled while waiting at the bar. They weren't shucked very well, and they just generally didn't do it for us. Maybe they just didn't have great stuff that week.
Ahi Tuna Crudo
A decent crudo that could serve as a nice compliment to whatever you're drinking, especially if you're looking to eat light.
These are the "famous" wings at Distilled that everyone seems to love so much. We liked them OK, but also felt like there was so much fried/crunchy/spicy/salty/sweet overload that they sort of ended up tasting like nothing. Like our taste buds just threw in the towel and were like "fck it, we're done." I suppose what we're saying is that we don't get they hype.
Country Fried Duck & Waffles
Probably our favorite thing on the menu, even though it's a weird dish. This is basically a pile of duck meat that's been flash fried so that there's a crunchy shell around it, and then set atop a French toast waffle thing and drizzled in smoked chili maple syrup. It's sort of unsettling and also pretty delicious. Order one for fun.
A nice vegetarian dish that provides a needed break from all the over the top flavors in this place. The cauliflower is tossed with miso, pumpkin seeds and a little bit of basil, and it's somewhat light compared to everything else on the menu.