“A rich repertoire of comfort food and then some” Review of Shopsins
BY SHERRY LIU
Creativity, balanced with simple ingredients and aggressive portions pureed into something I delightfully gobbled up in this delectable corner of the Essex Street Market. Shopsin’s has a distinct sense of Lower East Side community despite its migration from the west-side years ago. The restaurant seats about 20 people ranging from hipsters in overall shorts and tattoos to senior citizens announcing all their health problems but whispering conversations about McDonald’s new coffee line. I stood in line reading the Times but I should’ve been studying the menu with its quirky plate names as it was two pages long with one entirely dedicated to breakfast. Note to the wise – the line moved at a moderate pace but the three girls in front of us were unfortunately pushed back multiple times as parties of 2 were easier to sit.
Presentation, plating, and garnish are foreign words here but that is something you should truly appreciate. Nothing is drizzled with crème fraiche and to my relief, I did not catch the words “demi” or “infused” anywhere on the menu. Sparsely decorated with the bottles of condiments used in the restaurant and posters of safari animals, you wonder what kind of message the owner of Shopsin’s is sending out. But ultimately, what you find is wholesome comfort food – where no one theme dominates the menu or the décor.
After an appetizer of Mac’n Cheese (why not, it’s the weekend), we ordered one savory entree, Blisters On My Sister with spicy BBQ pulled pork, and one sweet, Slutty cakes with pumpkin, peanut butter and pistachio. The Mac’n Cheese had a crunchy bread crumb top and each noodle came with a spoonful of melted cheddar and white cheddar cheese. The layers of Blisters On My Sister followed this order: melted gooey cheddar cheese with a slightly browned char, two over-easy fried eggs, BBQ pulled pork, rice, beans and a hit of wilted spinach on top a corn tortilla served in a 11″ skillet. Each forkful was followed with a string of cheese connecting your mouth and the dish. I loved the slight burnt char on the cheese allowing the cheese to deliver its full taste. The rice dominated the ratio of layers and unfortunately blanded the taste but a bit of hot sauce and salt was able to solve that problem.
If you do not like soft pancakes, you will not like the Slutty cakes. You can feel the texture of the batter in the middle of the cakes. With all the ingredients rubbed on each side, it’s hard to fully cook the middle. For me, it was like the best part because I grew up in the school of thought of licking the cake batter bowl. Sweet and crunchy skillet pancakes with a doughy filling topped with your own miniature bottle of maple syrup was more of a dessert (cake batter) than a breakfast.
I had no complaints but I can see why some critics emphasize this little restaurant’s flaws. To all of them, I say, you try making 200 distinct dishes in your miniature kitchen and let me know how it goes.