An ember smolders and glows. No wonder celebrity chefs Todd English and Ian Chalermkittichai decided to name their new Manhattan eatery the Ember Room.
The fires burn bright at this high-end Asian BBQ joint in Hell's Kitchen, judging by the soft opening on February 2. The bi-level, 140-seat space on Ninth Avenue was a veritable crush, with some attendees paying $40 a person just to get in the doors.
Heading there for dinner now, you can breathe a sigh of relief that you won't be jockeying for space and hors d'oeuvres. Most nights are busy but there's room to enjoy the food and the surroundings. The ambience is futuristic Asian-red and black blended with gold. A large painting, featuring an elephant embracing a young boy, dominates the back room on the street level. Black-and-glass communal tables dot the main dining space near the bar.
The upper level features handmade gold Thai bells suspended from the ceiling, as well as a wall of Chinese script. Designer Roy Nachum, who is known for his work at Justin Timberlake's Southern Hospitality and 1oak, married Asian and Western designs into a chic space that seems a bit out of place for casual Hell's Kitchen. It would work better on a trendy stretch of Soho.
Chef Chalermkittichai works his magic in the kitchen (English has so many restaurants, he seems to be jetting somewhere every week), which is on street level and viewable to anyone dining there. A bespoke Nobile oven, made of volcanic rock and stone, fires up the delicacies. The menu is for meat lovers. Beef, pork and fish are plentiful. Ember Room has already garnered much praise for its chocolate glazed baby back ribs.
Covered in cinnamon, chili and coffee, they pack a wallop, according to diners. But the best main course is the red-chili glazed sea bass. With celeriac and gai lan (Chinese broccoli), the sea bass is buttery, a melt-in-you-mouth treat. The BBQ short ribs shouldn't be skipped either. Ginger and citrus crumbs infuse the fall-off-the-bone meat, giving it an extra kick.
Cocktails are Asian-inspired featuring lychee and kaffir lime. The Cognac and Prosecco cocktail is delicious as is the martini with pomegranate liqueur.