Monday, June 23, 2008

Eating Out: Homeslice West

A few months ago, an article about underground New York City dining clubs caught our eye. People were charging relatively large sums of money for home-cooked meals and serving them to groups of 20 or 30 against the will of the Department of Health. Obviously, we were intrigued.

We signed up for the mailing lists of all the groups mentioned in the article, and the first one to get back to us was Homeslice West. Billing themselves as "a culinary speakeasy," Homeslice West is the brainchild of Hayden and Becky, two Upper-West-siders from the South who grew up cooking and never tired of it. After falling in love with the city, they wanted to give something back by creating a cozy space in which groups of friends could comfortably mingle and enjoy good food and drink. In creating such an atmosphere, Hayden and Becky have undoubtedly succeeded. The space they used, the apartment of a friend, was nothing but friendly, and most of the diners (average age, about 30) were repeats, greeting each other by name.

The food began on its highest note, and, from there on, was always adequate but often uneven. The finger-food appetizer waiting for us when we entered was a jalapeƱo-bacon wrapped date stuffed with pecan cream. It was exquisite, perfectly crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. After taking our seats, we were served buttermilk biscuits with honey butter. These were above-average biscuits, at least on par with the fabulous biscuits at Little Giant. The appetizer of rock shrimp ceviche with plantain chips, however, was simply sufficient, lacking anything to set it apart from any other straight-up ceviche. The salad was summer asparagus with heart of palm, in a blood orange vinaigrette. It too was simply adequate.

The entree, pictured above, was a macadamia-crusted mahi mahi with pineapple-papaya relish on black lentils. The lentils themselves were the highlight of the sit-down portion of the meal. Exquisitely smoky, they perfectly offset a quite-good piece of fish. Lastly, the dessert was crispy cake fritters with key lime creme, a shout out to one of the cooks' Florida roots. These were delicious.

Homeslice's food, simply put, did not merit $50 a head, especially when New York restaurants like Little Owl set the bar so high at that price point. On the other hand, dining there was, if nothing else, a fascinating social experience. We'd certainly recommend it to everyone once, and we were encouraged enough by it that we plan on trying another one of the dining clubs sometime soon.


Matty June 24, 2008 at 2:23 PM  

I, too, am disappointed that this experience didn't seem like a great value. But as I think about the the prices I've seen for things such as this and for cooking classes, it almost begins to seem as if restaurants themselves are a value. When you need to meet a certain quality standard for the inputs you're using, there's just no way you can spend lightly on protein or organic veggie sources. Particularly in Manhattan! If you assembled the meal yourself, could you do it for less than $50?

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