Total Bill: $68.00 for two
An eclectic little garden surrounded by illuminating stained-glass windows and a backyard hookah bar, Cloistser Cafe has long been a hidden gem in the East Village. Yet heading into Halloween weekend, the restaurant was eerily abandoned.
After work/class on Friday, Jay and I wanted to try something outside of St. Marks, and eventually stumbled upon Cloister, long forgotten from our undergraduate NYU days. Its inconspicuous entrance can easily lose audiences to the flashier Robataya and slew of Japanese restaurants along the street.
Nevertheless, Cloister it was, and boy did we get the contrast we were looking for. Their dishes were hardy, hefty, even edging on a lack of refinement. The most prominent trend here seemed to be that there is no trend at all. From Asian-style duck and American barbeque to creamy pasta and fried ice cream, there didn’t seem to be a central focus on the menu, which actually made it pretty difficult for us to decide on what to order and if we really liked it in the end.
I had the duck, which confused me bit. It was roasted without much flavor, but still crispy on the outside and not too within. But the hoisen sauce and grilled vegetables were distinctly Asian-inspired, pulling the dish in different directions. Overall, which it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t altogether inspiring to finish.
Jay had the marinated sirloin — actually really juicy and nicely seasoned, but stepping back, just way too much on the plate. I would even have preferred a little less meat, but a little more care in some balancing sides, instead of two under-cooked carrots, over-cooked rice, and one bland broccoli.
My favorite entree ended up being the crispy spicy short-ribs appetizer. It was glazed with a tint of sweetness and hits of spice, all with a brittle yet chewy texture. Best of all, there is a decent amount of meat that falls right off the bone, which is not always the case with ribs.
We ended with a very sweet fried coconut ice cream. I love the flavor of coconut, but the extra sugar in the coating sort of pushed it overboard. Same goes with the sugary sangria. So sure, it’s a fine place to go to for something different, or maybe when you have a group that’s looking to hookah and gorge on large servings. But since you’re at St. Marks, stick to that if you’re not in the mood to experiment.