NYCReview

photo credit: Heather Willensky

The spread of dishes and food at Figure Eight.
7.4

Figure Eight

ChineseAmerican

West Village

$$$$Perfect For:Date Night
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Figure Eight makes American Chinese food inspired by the lower Atlantic coast, but don’t spend too much time trying to figure out what that means. Similar to its sister restaurant Silver Apricot, this West Village spot has a menu resembling a Food & Wine Mad Libs game. On paper, things like hush puppy HK waffles and corn jalapeño bolobaos have the makings of a buzzy, destination restaurant. As intriguing as these combinations sound though, they only have about a 50% success rate.

There are a few great plates, like Southern-style hot fried skate with Sichuan chiles, or oysters with a gelée of rose-flavored sorghum wine. But that waffle is flavorless, the bolobao is tough, and a plate of grilled oysters are confusingly bitter. With a menu that changes often, these inconsistencies can be frustrating, especially when a full meal here will run you around $120 per person.

Between the dinner party lighting and tightly packed tables, the lively, communal atmosphere almost makes up for some of the less successful menu items. There’s also a quieter bar area on one side, and cocktails with a better success rate than the food. If you do end up at Figure Eight, stick to our recommendations and you’ll be fine. But there are plenty of other places in the neighborhood that won't make you feel like you’ve been hired as a judge on Top Chef—and forced to forfeit your salary in the process.

Food Rundown

Hot fried skate in a plate.

photo credit: Heather Willensky

Hot Fried Skate

As with most spicy fried things, this one is a crowd favorite. The Southern hot chicken inspiration is obvious, except that this dry rub gets its fiery flavor from Sichuan peppers, and a chili crisp glaze in addition to Cajun cayenne. It’s served with a flaky sesame biscuit, homemade ranch, and pickles, so you can put together your new favorite fish sandwich.

Mini lobster roll.

photo credit: Heather Willensky

Mini Tempura Lobster Roll

More things should come between milk buns, especially when they’re as pillowy as these ones. We don’t mind the relatively small size of this: the delicately fried lobster and hint of fermented black bean from the douchi sauce make for fewer, but richer, bites than your usual lobster roll. Get one per person.

Four grilled oysters on a plate.

photo credit: Heather Willensky

Grilled Oysters

In another dish, we probably would have loved the pungent XO butter on these oysters. But here, the butter’s saltiness and smokiness is a bit too much along with the briny, smoky oysters, making the whole dish slightly bitter. Go with the raw oysters instead.

Raw oysters on a platter.

photo credit: Heather Willensky

Raw Oysters

A mei gui lu jiu gelée? Perfection. Especially after the Chinese rose wine has been topped off with some chili oil and fresno chiles. Get these instead of the grilled oysters.

Four pork ribs.

photo credit: Heather Willensky

Pork Ribs

We saw pineapple in the description and expected a sweet and sticky glaze, but most of the flavor on these just comes from the fatty pork. These are perfectly fine, but we’d rather try something new on the menu than order them again.

A hand holding a plate of long beans.

photo credit: Heather Willensky

Long Beans

There’s nothing too experimental going on in this classic combo of green beans, sesame and chili crisp, but don’t skip this dish because it sounds boring. The mint adds another dimension to the flavor, and the extra long beans are just fun to eat.

The hush puppy HK waffle and chili butter at Figure Eight.

photo credit: Heather Willensky

Hush Puppy HK Waffle

We were excited about this dish, which is covered in a grated white cheddar powder, but while the waffle has a perfect golden fry and a satisfying mochi chew, it was almost flavorless. The hot honey butter didn’t have enough sweet or spice to salvage it for us.

Afternoon Tea

On the weekends, Figure Eight does an Afternoon Tea set with unlimited sandwiches and a pastry set. Like their dinner menu, the ideas are exciting—pork floss madeline, lapcheong pig in a blanket, for example—but the results are underwhelming, and you don’t really get much flavor out of the unconventional ingredients. Even with unlimited sandwiches, it’s not worth the $88 per person price tag.

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