Wild Ginger


Image courtesy of brewbooks photostream on Flickr.com
Image courtesy of brewbooks’ photostream on Flickr.com

10 Park Place
Bronxville, New York

5 Second Summary:

Price Range- Entrees $15-23 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Upscale contemporary
Cuisine- Asian fusion
Hits- Hot entrees, some of the decor
Misses- Proximity to Haiku, cool service

“It’s the new Haiku,” my sister oozed.  “I keep hearing about it.  I can’t wait to try it!”

Indeed.  I had heard much about Wild Ginger as well: mixed reviews over time.  Some swore that it outperformed Bronxville’s ever-crowded Haiku.  Others indicated it was equal, if not inferior to, the Pondfield Road Pan-Asian hotspot.

Eager -as always- to see for myself, I headed to Wild Ginger with my friend Valerie for lunch.  We were greeted in the foyer by bold primary colors and a seemingly hurried host.  It was midday on a Wednesday during my spring recess, so I didn’t expect a full house.  The restaurant was sparsely populated: a young couple and a small group of ladies-who-lunch-types replete with strollers and toddlers in tow.

The narrow space had a distinct Asian feel with dark wood, straight lines, and omnipresent squares.  A maze of recessed black wood housed variously shaped spice jars, which lent visual interest and a homey feel.  Directly in front of the kitchen, however, was a kitschy, attention-grabbing wall of pinholes backlit in blue.  It had a trendy, pop-art vibe I wasn’t crazy for.

Val and I weighed the various merits of several appetizers, including a wok-glazed ginger scallion duck/lobster tail or duck fajitas, before finally deciding on a live scallop tiradito: thin-sliced sashimi with a cilantro garnish, homemade chili paste, and the chef’s “special sauce.”

Imagine our disappointment when the not-overly-friendly waiter intoned, “We’re out of that.”  Okaaaaay… well, that’s anticlimactic.

I decided to try a peanut avocado roll simply because I don’t often see them, and I love the boldness of peanut flavor with sushi.  This veggie roll was no disappointment.  Temperature, taste, and texture were enjoyable: creamy, smooth avocado balanced the crunch and salt of finely chopped peanuts and the chewy bite of the rice.

For lunch, we opted for bento boxes.  The waiter, who seemed rushed despite the small crowd, had very little conversation with us despite our friendly attempts to solicit suggestions.  He first brought us hot and sour soup with a sneaky spiciness that -toward the bottom of the bowl- made my nose run.  Egg, mushroom, lots of onion, cilantro, and small chunks of tofu made it flavorful.

The soup was followed by a mixed green salad with frisee, jicama, mango, and yuzu.  I appreciated the mixture, which gave slightly more than your average sushi-salad-accompaniment.

The bento box’s two pork dumplings, brown rice, and three California roll slices were tasty and otherwise nondescript.  My meal was a red thai curry vegetable dish consisting of red pepper, red onion, potato, eggplant, mushrooms, string beans, coconut, basil, and a peanut buttery base.  It was also spicy on the finish and built heat as the dish proceeded.

Valerie, who opted for red thai curry prawns after debating sambai samba (Indonesian spices), offered her review.  “The hot food gets an A+.”

We considered banana mousse, three-chocolate mousse, or sorbet/gelato for dessert but found ourselves too full.  I suppose the portion size was a plus, although Valerie and I are on the small-bellied side.  Had my boyfriend -a fan of big plates filled with big steaks- been with us, I’m sure he would have had room for dessert.

Final thoughts? The whole experience was rather… nondescript.  Both the hot entree and sushi menu seemed innovative and interesting, but the cool reception and ambiance didn’t leave me yearning for more. I had to wonder about how business-savvy Wild Ginger’s owners were.  It was a bold move to step in on this market, which is clearly in high demand if you’ve seen how much business Haiku does on the average weeknight, but is there really room in Bronxville for two Pan-Asian restaurants? Time will tell.

Back to my framing question— do I think Wild Ginger is better than Haiku? No.  I prefer the warm atmosphere and quick, attentive service at Haiku, even if there is a wait for a table on a Monday night, and even if the menu isn’t quite as clever.

Would I go to Wild Ginger again? Yes.  Even though it has a slightly cooler, more restaurant-chain-style feel, the menu did draw me in, and I’m left with an unfinished feeling that my visit, at an odd hour on an odd day, didn’t quite live up to what Wild Ginger is capable of.  Although a restaurant should be spot-on at all times of the day, I think I’d give Wild Ginger another chance before ultimately praising or panning its wares.

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