White Slab Palace—a Scandinavian bar in the Lower East Side from the previous owners of Good World—has been getting a lot of bad press since it opened, mostly because of the service. And at times, I'll agree, the service has been less than perfect.
I've seated myself on a few occasions, had my wine glass taken away when there was still wine left in my wine bottle, and once, my table had to ask the waitress to recalculate the check twice. (Both times, the math was wrong.) Nevertheless, when I meet friends from the neighborhood for drinks, we usually meet there. The location is convenient, and although the service is at times more relaxed than I would prefer, just for that reason, no one is rushing you out the door, even on a Friday night. Turning tables is not high on anyone's list at White Slab.
Hanging out for an hour or two, sooner or later you'll need food, and it's good at White Slab—as long as you're not on the verge of starvation (the food arrives as slow as the drinks) and you know what to order.
You would the expect Swedish Meatballs ($14) to be decent at a Scandinavian bar, but on my last visit, although tender and light, they were too salty to eat. You'll need to pile on the mashed potatoes to make them edible.
The seafood, however, has always been delicious. The Salt Gratinated Wild Texas Shrimp ($12) and the Florida Stone Crab Claws ($12), although small, were both cooked well and tasted fresh.
But for something more substantial, I like the Torsk Macka ($18). It's known as the fish burger at White Slab, but it's really a fish sandwich—a thick fillet of seared flaky cod served on toasted ciabatta bread slathered with dill-heavy tartar sauce. Capers and sliced gherkins take the place of relish. Think Filet-O-Fish, but upgraded. The sandwich also comes with sweet potato chips and a salad of tomatillos and greens, but both were mediocre. The chips were unsalted, and some of the greens had seen better days. Focus on the seafood at White Slab, and you'll be good.
Cocktails (all around $12) get interesting at White Slab, but again, like everything else, can be hit-or-miss. The Moby Dick, made with Hangar One vodka, sambuca, and garnished with an anchovy, strangely wasn't problematic because of the anchovy, but because of the sambuca. The ratio was off, and the drink ended up tasting like candy, strong alcoholic candy.
The Berzerker, on the other hand, made with ginger ale, Aalborg Jubilaeum aquavit, and garnished with a cucumber, was refreshing, like drinking a cool cucumber. Usually, though, I normally split a bottle of white wine with friends. The list is small, but starting at $28, prices are reasonable. Just keep your eye on your wine glass.
White Slab Palace has a few service issues, but if you stick to the seafood and have a few hours to spare, you're bound to have a good time. If you have any plans later in the evening, just tell your friends you'll be late.
White Slab Palace
77 Delancey Street, New York, NY 10002 (b/n Allen & Orchard St; map) 212-334-0913
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