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Wassail (Waes Hael) Cider Bar by the Owners of The Queen's Kickshaw - Orchard Street in Lower East Side - Closed


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From the owners of The Queens Kickshaw comes their new venture, WASSAiL - a cider bar and restaurant, located on Orchard St., on the lower east side of Manhattan.

The Queens Kickshaw has been known, since its opening, as one of the best places to get your cider on.  Trouble is, it's in Astoria, not exactly an easy schlep from Manhattan. So, I was extremely excited when I read that the owners had taken a space, right here in my neighborhood.

It opened this week. And to say I'm happy would be an understatement. We visited Tuesday night, their public opening, and were wowed - at any one time, they'll have between 80 - 100 ciders available, from all over the globe. There will be about a dozen available on draught, and a bunch more available by the glass. We only tasted 7 or 8, so we've got a ways to go.

And of course, I blogged about it as well.

Hail WASSAiL

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It opened this week. And to say I'm happy would be an understatement. We visited Tuesday night, their public opening, and were wowed - at any one time, they'll have between 80 - 100 ciders available, from all over the globe. There will be about a dozen available on draught, and a bunch more available by the glass. We only tasted 7 or 8, so we've got a ways to go.

Mitch, do you know if this is the largest cider selection in the United States? It sounds like it might be.

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Thanks for the report! I read about the upcoming Wassail and put it on my continually updated list of places to visit when I'm in NY. I'll actually be in NY very soon so I think I'll have to go then.

I see you didn't get a chance to try any food. I read an article that mentioned that the food will be vegetarian though not billed as such (I cant recall the exact words but the gist was that the public may have a certain bias against food billed as vegetarian). I was impressed with the menu. It had a bunch of dishes I'd want to order (I'm not vegetarian).

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Correct - we haven't eaten any of the food, and though not billed as vegetarian, the owner says:  "We're calling it 'cider-focused cuisine.'"

Be forewarned...we walked over on Saturday night, to have a cider before going elsewhere for dinner, and it was a total shitshow. Packed and no room to even stand and have a glass. This was at 7 PM. Weeknights will be a much better bet for a while, and it may not change at all on the weekends, considering its location is right in the heart of the lower east side, lovingly dubbed Hell Square.

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I was scheduled to meet with a friend who's a foodie and wine enthusiast Monday for drinks; he lives on the Lower East Side so when I saw weinoo's post, we changed our plans and decided to try Wassail. Between us we ordered 5 ciders and can recommend this spot to anyone who likes or wants to try out some good ciders.

 
They definitely have a wide variety, including some with a funky smell (Spanish ciders I believe). The one revelation "” and realize I only know a smidgeon about cider "” was the existence of ice ciders. If you like ice wine, you will enjoy ice cider. I preferred the Eden 2012.
 
We did not eat anything, but got confirmation that it's mostly vegetarian. The mushroom entree has a dashi broth (I didn't ask, but traditionally that's made with dried fish shavings), and one dish had a duck egg. So "mostly."
 
The service was pleasant and professional; it appears they have trained the staff well in ciders, knowing that many of not most customers will know very little to be able to choose the correct cider. Our waiter was very patient and precise with his descriptions. We also spoke with the co-owner Ben briefly; he was curious to know what we had told NY Times cocktail columnist Robert Simonson, who had asked to interview us about why we came and what we thought. 
 
The decor is modern with sleek, black wood surfaces. The place was quiet but not empty when we arrived around 5:30 PM, almost full and fairly noisy when we left before 7 PM. I imagine like weinoo that this place will continue to be packed on weekends, and probably very busy even on weeknights.
 
I plan to return soon to try the food and more ciders.
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Indeed, the Spanish ciders (and often the French ciders from Brittany) are quite funky - especially the aroma.

They're some of the first ciders that were available here on a wide basis - mostly in Spanish restaurants

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I visited Wassail this past Thursday. I enjoyed the ciders, but I was especially impressed by the jalapeno fritters. The fritters were thumbnail sized (if you have small thumbs) cylinders that were crispy, a little cheesy flavored, and so light inside. They reminded me of a deep fried tiny gougere. I'd go back for those fritters alone. (I didn't order any other food.)

I did wish the menu included tasting notes or descriptions of each cider by the glass. The bartender was helpful in describing them generally by region and offered me a taste of the cider before I ordered one. But there's less opportunity for discussions with the bartender as the bar gets busier.

Finally, I thought this note on the bill about appreciating cash tips was interesting. I've seen that type of sign at my hair salon, but this is the first time I've seen it on a restaurant bill.

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I visited Wassail this past Thursday. I enjoyed the ciders, but I was especially impressed by the jalapeno fritters. The fritters were thumbnail sized (if you have small thumbs) cylinders that were crispy, a little cheesy flavored, and so light inside. They reminded me of a deep fried tiny gougere. I'd go back for those fritters alone. (I didn't order any other food.)

I did wish the menu included tasting notes or descriptions of each cider by the glass. The bartender was helpful in describing them generally by region and offered me a taste of the cider before I ordered one. But there's less opportunity for discussions with the bartender as the bar gets busier.

Wouldn't it be awesome if we had a cider bar in DC?

Fine. I'll just snap my fingers, and we'll have one.

<snap>

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I thought this note on the bill about appreciating cash tips was interesting. I've seen that type of sign at my hair salon, but this is the first time I've seen it on a restaurant bill.

This is interesting.  There have been any number of cases here in NYC over the years, with restaurateurs getting sued for "improperly handling" tips. Certainly, cash tips, and even more certainly, no tips but fair wages, would help to alleviate even any appearance of impropriety.

Enough of that bs.  We were back again Friday eve pre-dinner, which was somewhere else. Yes, indeed, the jalapeno fritters are delicious, and the one other food item we tried, mushrooms escabeche, were also quite good.

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This is what their draught set-up is - quite minimalist...

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Wouldn't it be awesome if we had a cider bar in DC?

Hey - at least you've got a sherry bar!

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Count me as a big fan of Wassail.  As Cheezepowder said above, I think brief tasting notes accompanying (at least) the draft ciders would be very helpful.  Even a "dry/sweet/funky" designation would have been enough.  Our waitress was great and very helpful in steering me toward things I liked, but I would like to have been able to at least narrow things down in my mind to 2 or 3 without her having to describe each one.

We ate a full dinner and were very impressed with every dish.  We started with the assorted pickles, which were exactly what one would expect from a housemade pickle plate in 2015.  Nothing life changing, but a good intro snack while we decided on other dishes.  The green strawberry gazpacho was smooth, delicious and light, poured table-side over a cucumber granita and thinly sliced raw marcona almonds and pickled strawberries.  Sautéed morels were served with ramps and pine nuts - simple but satisfying...no need to get crazy with such great Spring produce.  Cauliflower came as a sizable "steak" with great caramelization, served over dollops of a rich cashew cream and black garlic puree.  I may have licked the plate on this one.  Fresh, still almost crunchy (in a good way) green peas sat atop smoked ricotta and were drizzled with savory organ oil.

All of the savory dishes were executed well, showcasing fresh produce without too much adornment. For dessert, we followed our waitresses' recommendation and had the Frozen spruce souffle topped with a yogurt granita...This was a great, pine-y flavor, softened and rounded out by the yogurt.  Strange, but great.

Overall, I was impressed with the gutsiness of the concept.  I would never have the chutzpah to 1) open a cider bar, and 2) do so with a vegetarian menu.  Kudos to the team at Wassail for making it work.

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I was at Wassail this past Saturday night, and I was happy to see that they've added tasting notes to the cider menu.   Here's a picture of the draft section.

The jalepeno fritters were too salty this time.

We arrived around 9:15 pm, and it wasn't that packed.

post-889-0-67838100-1438298114_thumb.jpe

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