199 Bowery near Spring Street, Lower East Side
Getting There: 6 to Spring Street; J,M,Z to Bowery; B,D to Grand Street
Restaurant Review: The General
With a commanding space on the Lower East Side that opened in early January, the much ballyhooed restaurant from the EMM Group (Catch, Abe & Arthur’s), The General unveiled a sleek, sexy lounge feel with small plates of Asian infused fare. The kitchen, fronted by Bravo’s Top Chef season three winner Hung Huynh, mixes equal parts American, Japanese, traditional Chinese, and even some Mexican flare, with an inspired menu that is both distinctive and delicious at once. But the best part of all perhaps is grabbing a table inside The General’s stylish interior, and being able to impress your guests without spending lavishly.
Inside The General, the vibe is rife with many of the modern amenities we’ve become used to with new restaurant openings. Floor to ceiling street side windows give nearby patrons a glimpse of the bustling Bowery right outside while the old barn wood beams that line the ceiling, provide a rustic feel to the area surrounding the bar. The main dining area meanwhile meshes plush espresso brown booths lining the surrounding walls, covered by an Asian inspired tapestry, and bright red chairs enwrapping the tableside seating, illuminated with some purposefully dimmed lighting overhead. What’s most notable is the black rack that sits elevated in the center of each small table, creating some additional space for small plates and makes for an easier time sharing each dish.
Fortunately, the most difficult part of dining at The General is making selections from its expansive menu, which runs the gamut from sashimi and sushi rolls ($3 – $15) to the heaping portion of “Peking Duck” ($59). With any newly opened spot, we opted to taste as much of the menu as possible and as such we began with several selections from the ‘Hot’ and ‘Cold’ portions offered. The “Crab On A Cracker” ($9) was the first dish dropped at our table, and was among our favorite of our dining experience. Topped with fresh avocado and tobiko, the smooth and chunky cold hunks of crab mixed wonderfully with the cracker crunch. The “Vietnamese Summer Roll” ($12) meanwhile, was just adequate- the sweet mango sauce salvaged an otherwise surprisingly tasteless dish. The ‘Hot’ starters on the other hand like the “Miso-Yaki Chicken Eggplant” ($11) and the “Pork & Cabbage Potsticker” ($9) were each uniquely delicious and distinctive. The “Chinese Chicken Tacos” ($11) were a bit diminutive, but backed a great deal of flavor into each crackling bite, alongside the kick of sweet chili and bell pepper.
It seems as though we saved the best for last as the “Cinderalla Risotto” ($17) was downright excellent. Served inside of a full acorn squash that resembled a pumpkin, the thick mixture of starch with mushrooms and a truffle based sauce yielded a flavor profile that was simply outstanding. And the generous portion brought us to our fill almost instantaneously. The side of “Yu Choy” ($6) is also worthy of immense praise, with each scrumptious bite of the olive oil and garlicky green vegetable tasting like an authentic and traditional Szechuan style dish.
The chic interior and scenester atmosphere at The General would have more than made up for a collection of middling dishes being served. But that’s simply not the case here. The well constructed menu may be a little wide reaching, but as a final product, it all works together cohesively. Even the most fastidious of eaters can find something on which to nosh on the menu, but in the end, the restaurant’s cool ambiance and the experience of being inside The General is reason enough to make a stop to the Bowery alone.
Rundown of the Meal
Crab on a Cracker ($9)*
Vietnamese Summer Roll ($12)
Chinese Chicken Tacos ($11)
Miso-Yaki Chicken Eggplant ($11)
Pork & Cabbage Potsticker ($9)
Rice & Noodles
Cinderella Risotto ($17)*
Yu Choy ($6)*