On Wednesday, I got together with some old friends who I went to the Institute of Culinary Education with. All of them work in the industry, so their love for hospitality and food is similar to mine. While planning a get together, we let our friend Dana pick as she is probably the biggest foodie out of all of us. Dana is like a living Zagat guide as she's been to so many places. And if she hasn't been, she's read about it. She listed a bunch of restaurants in the e-mails prior to our outing, but only one restaurant had reservations for the 5 of us. Vandaag, a new-comer to the East Village. Vandaag, meaning "today" in Dutch serves up Dutch/Scandinavian fare in a comfortable atmosphere. I really liked Vandaag's design and decor. I was surprised how open the space seemed--I like the design; but it seems like they had some wasted space. From a dinner's perspective its awesome, but from a business standpoint it seems they could utilize the space more. The again, the restaurant was pretty empty, so maybe getting more tables in is not a priority.
The service was good. Our server was knowledgeable and friendly. The drink and food menu was very inventive and stayed true to its concept. Sam Snifton awarded Vandaag with two stars after describing the menu as "inventive, a version of Northern European cooking refracted through an East Village lens". The chef, Phillip Kirschen, worked at restaurants such as Corton and WD-50; so his experience left us anxious to taste.
We started the night with some cocktails. Genever and Aquavit were at the essence of the cocktail list. Vandaag also had a nice selection of microbrews and wines. Vandaag's wine selection seemed to be centered around Austrian-German varietals. The cocktails were good..different, but good. We ordered a mix of appetizers and entrees, so that we could all share. The combination of ingredients were unique, but im just not sure I am convinced. I like when food brings you outside your boundaries, but I don't think it worked (for me). The crowd had mixed reviews on the various dishes, but there was nothing that we needed to order another one of. The one thing that was memorable was the potatoes and bacon pot. Crispy fingerling potatoes with smokey bacon, apples, and stroop (Dutch caramel syrup) made for a great side dish. The stroop was also served on one of the desserts we got--the stroopwafel. Although the stroopwafel wasn't great, it was better than the beet bread pudding which was topped with a cranberry sorbet.
Overall, Vandaag offers a compelling experience; however, I think it fell short. The atmosphere was good and the service was too; but the food just didn't do it for me. Sure we had something interesting dishes with unusual combination of ingredients; but none of the combo's kept a lasting impression with me. This place might be good if you want to experience something different, but I will not be back.
The menu is seasonal, so it changes pretty often. These are some dishes that were on the website that we tried. There were a few that weren't listed.
SEASONAL PICKLE POT 5
KALE SALAD - PICKLED CHESTNUTS, SWEET ONIONS, CARAWAY 8