Tiny Fork, a pearl of an oyster bar located on the Lower East Side, recently expanded its menu to include a host of new delights de la mer. Earlier this week, Joonbug was fortunate enough to be invited to sample some of the new dishes, so we pointed Google Maps to 167 Orchard Street and braved the notorious icy weather.
After entering the restaurant, we took a few moments to survey the scene as the smell of cocktail sauce caused our mouths to water. Tiny Fork's space is split into two seating areas: to the right, the bar acts as a focal point, encouraging patrons to mingle with each other. The left half affords diners a variety of seating options and is ideal for larger dinner parties. As befits a seafood restaurant, the decorators chose a nautical theme for the interior design, ornamenting the walls with life preservers, fishing nets, and other related visual stimuli. Gentle pop rock provided a tasteful musical backdrop for the evening's culinary explorations.
After being seated, we started things off with some seasonal cocktails to aid in our decision-making: The Drunken Pumpkin and Eve's Hard Apple Cider. The pumpkin flavor of the former drink was not overt, but instead manifested itself on the palette as a pleasant aftertaste. The cider (pictured below) was presented in a charming bottle little bottle, and its autumnal aroma warmed our spirits as its heat defrosted our blizzarded hands. It had a general sort of cidery flavor to it with a subtle cinnamon accent; nothing too outlandish, but a solid winter beverage.
Given its reputation for world-class oysters, we couldn't pass up the chance to sample TF's offerings. With thirteen (!) different varieties from which to choose, we left the decision up to our helpful waiter who came back with four: Kusshi, Moonstones, Rappahonnak, and St. Simon. They came with a standard shrimp cocktail sauce, a cute little bottle of tabasco, and a third intriguing sauce, somewhat spicy, with tangy notes of vinegar. Our first bite of the Rappahonnak immediately transported us to the beach with its strong oceanic taste. Each subsequent type had a similar base flavor, but with its own variation: the St. Simons was less briney, the Moonstones were slightly saltier, and the Kusshi had a compelling sweetness to them. Our top two? The Rappahonnak and the Kusshi!
Tiny Fork's menu does not divide their dishes into traditional appetizer/entrée/side groups, but it's fairly easy to estimate the portion sizes from the descriptions and prices. Nearly every item presented some enticing novelty, making it difficult for us to choose! Eventually we narrowed down our selections. As appetizers, we landed on the Mac & Cheese Bars and the Clam Chowder. Never before had we seen this unique twist on a nostalgic childhood favorite, and we were quickly seduced by the pungent, cheesy aroma emanating upwards. Their crispy, fried exterior contrasted superbly with their creamy, noodly center, rendering each bite into a terrifically tactile experience. For those who like their mac and cheese with a little kick, the restaurant kindly furnished a tabasco dispenser alongside the dish.
The chowder, a New England standby, had that classic hearty clam-and-potato flavor that we all know and love. However, it was a bit more watery than we would normally prefer, so if you favor a thicker texture, you may wish to look elsewhere. Nevertheless, we finished every last drop with gusto.
Our glasses began to ran dry, so to avoid that fate, we topped up before the main course with an effervescent Michelada. Along with the ever-present tabasco, TF added the hot sauce du jour, sriracha, to give a suggestion of Siam to this Latin American beverage. This saucy foundation supplied a welcome stoutness to the otherwise light pilsner. We encourage fans of Bloody Marys and Margaritas to sample this hybrid concoction.
After a couple sips, the entrées were brought to us. The Ahi Tuna Steak arrived drizzled in a magnificent spicy sauce, seated proudly on a bed of kale and mango. It was cooked to perfection, with just a sliver of searing on the outside to give it a thin-shell crackle as we bit in. Each mouthful of fish melted dreamily on our palette, demanding a thoughtful lingual examination of all that it had to offer. The denser, sturdier kale provided a textural alternative to the tuna, yielding an overall sense of balance to the dish.
We completed the seafood gamut with an order of Lobster Sliders. Served cool, these little guys deliver crustaceal bliss with every bite without the annoyance of wrangling with claw crackers. Besides keeping our hands mayonnaise-free, the brioche bun balanced the chewiness of the lobster with a lightly toasted crispiness. Tiny Fork also offers Oyster Sliders for patrons who are more keen on bivalves. The waffles fries, cleverly displayed in a sheet of newspaper, were well-seasoned, but perhaps a little on the crunchy side. Less batter and/or more potato would help here.
Curiously, Tiny Fork has no desserts on their menu. However, their Black Velvet cocktail could be just the thing you need to tickle your sweet tooth after a savory dinner. Overall, this restaurant pairs a homey atmosphere with innovative dishes, serving up the whole spectrum of seafood to go with their formidable array of oyster variants. Great for parties or an intimate evening for two, this space has something for everyone. So, the next time you're hungry on the LES, jaunt on over to the corner of Orchard and Stanton and check out Tiny Fork!