Tantalizing Tatiana…NYC Restaurant Review

I enjoy a challenge.

When the competition is one-sided, skewed and unattainable I become frustrated and then I dig in.

I am describing the conundrum of attaining a reservation at the top rated New York City newbie restaurant, Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi.

Finally, I adopted a new philosophy.

Head to the restaurant and attempt to wait in line and assume the practically unattainable role of day of walk-in.

We arrived Monday at 4:50pm for a 5pm opening.

The self-contained, unwelcoming host took our name and said to wait outside.

My initial take of the highly touted restaurant was not positive.

Being a publicist, I am a strong believer that good first impressions set the stage for a highly anticipated experience. Unfortunately, she represented the establishment in a very ungracious manner.

20 minutes later we were still waiting with one other lovely young couple who we had time to chat with. The restaurant focused pair met online and a year and a half later were still quite content with their swipe right decision.

Finally, we were unceremoniously invited inside to wait some more.

The restaurant was half full, but we still lingered. I believe the stated goal is to not overtax the kitchen staff.

I was hoping for a bar seat, but when the moment of presenting the red rose for entrance acceptance occurred we were blessed with a full size table.


We crossed through the shimmering long metal-chain curtains, allegedly a reference to chain-link fences around playgrounds, into Tatiana which is named for Chef Onwuachi’s older sister.

Once inside the modest sized modern interior the mood lightened.

The floating clouds made me feel as if I had successfully entered the pearly culinary gates.

Our server was a gentle soul.

We were in need of a drink after we passed the litmus test for entrance.

Settled, we tackled the incisive menu reflecting the food Chef Onwuachi grew up eating, a blend of Nigerian, Trinidadian, Jamaican and Creole cooking.

The first challenge was to eliminate the meat dishes which are highly touted.

We kicked things over with the light and refreshing take on a classic salad. The tasty Green Caesar is made with Baby Mizuna, Green Seasoning and Cashews ($18).

We dove into the three crispy and delectable Egusi Dumplings with Jonah Crab, Nigerian Red Stew and Pickled Pearl Onions. The Dumplings were filled with Egusi soup, a touchstone of Nigerian cooking ($21).

Our main course was mouthwatering. The Take-Out Mushrooms, a version of Peking mushrooms, were a panoply of flavors served with fabulous Scallion Pancakes, incredibly flavorful Plum Sauce accompanied by tangy Pickled Ginger ($48).

We were fortunate to have wonderful tablemates who we ended up sharing tastes with.

They had chosen the Short Rib Pastrami Suya consisting of Wagyu Short Rib, Caraway Coco Bread and Melted Red Cabbage. The appetizing, hefty blackened rib, seasoned at the intersection of Jewish deli and Nigerian barbecue, was accompanied by light as a feather caraway-coconut Parker House rolls ($82).

We passed along the Caesar Salad to our neighbors and they reciprocated with a sampling of the appealing short rib.

We decided to order two of the three desserts and share.

Our Harlem Chocolate Factory White Chocolate Cheesecake made with French Vanilla Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, Brown Butter Graham Crumble topped off with thick and rich caramel was truly delectable ($20).

Our neighbor’s Strawberry Shortcake, inspired by grandma’s recipe, consisted of Strawberry Sorbet, Brown Butter and Fenugreek seeds was refreshing, but paled in comparison ($16).

The small bar area now extends to outside and there are also several outdoor dining tables available.

Tatiana is a tribute to the neighborhoods of Chef Kwame’s youth and the diverse culinary influences ultimately inspired by his “Afro-Caribbean-by-way-of-the-Bronx” heritage.

The 33 year-old Culinary Institute of America graduate, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park alum and “Top Chef” contestant’s love of cooking extends beyond the kitchen and into the community where he nourishes local causes with philanthropic contributions.

Chef Kwame not only seeks to honor and nurture his roots, but is driven to inspire the next generation of talented chefs to do the same.

Tatiana has soul, purpose and creatively tantalizing cuisine.

I have to admit it does live up to the hype and is worth the challenge of admission.

Tatiana by Kwame Onwuachi. David Geffen Hall at 10 Lincoln Center Plaza. Open Monday-Saturday 5-10pm with late night hours on Friday and Saturday 10-11pm. Reservations on Resy. Godspeed attempting to walk-in and grab a reservation.

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