One of the best things about dining in midtown is that nothing can be taken at face value. It’s not just a hotel, it’s a craft bar. Or it’s not just a lounge, there’s a rooftop restaurant as well. There’s not just sushi, there’s pasta, too. I don’t know when the “fusion” food craze began, but I’m so happy it did. Because it allowed a place like Tender Steak + Sushi to exist. The restaurant itself is on the ground floor of the Sanctuary Hotel in the Theatre District. The space is gorgeous – rich and sexy, with comfortable banquette seating and dark reflective ceilings. The menu boasts a wide selection of flavors and styles of food, from sushi to steak to pasta to meatloaf.
The first thing I tried were the Avocado Fries. I was skeptical of such a thing, because I love avocados, and “fries” tend to be all about the fried part, and less about the actual food being fried. But I was wrong, and they were fantastic – lightly battered in a tempura style, and fried perfectly in such a way that kept the integrity of the avocado. (And now I have a brand new way to enjoy one of my favorite foods!) We were also served the Wild Ginger Edamame. Now, I’ve had edamame tons of times. It’s salty and awesome. But THIS edamame is absolutely the best I have ever had. Part of the reason is that it’s grilled. I’ve never had grilled edamame before. It was flavored with ginger, garlic, and had slight heat from chili essence. My friend and I couldn’t stop eating it. We didn’t let our server (the wonderfully attentive David) take it away until he brought us dessert. Then we had to concede defeat on the edamame.
We were then presented with a pasta and a specialty sushi roll. The sushi was one they had named The Blessing Roll. It has lobster, seared salmon, jalapeño, and (my very favorite part) honey miso. The sweetness of the lobster and honey countered the spiciness of the jalapeño and wasabi beautifully. It was a truly phenomenal sushi roll. The pasta was the Truffle Tagliatelle. It was wonderfully flavored with subtle truffle (which is all that’s needed from truffle), mushrooms, and peas. It was a happy surprise that a restaurant that could make such fantastic Asian food could do just as well with such a traditional Italian dish.
Our meal was capped off with an excellent Tiramisu (because why not get an Italian dessert after an awesome sushi roll?). It was rich yet fluffy, and perfectly finished with shaved dark chocolate.
Another thing I found unusual about Tender is that the drinks were equal to the food. I don’t find that often. Usually a place clearly specializes in food, OR drinks. Rarely, both. Tender has a cocktail list that relies on very standard cocktails, with twists to make them their own. The Shadow, for example, is a vodka lychee martini. But this rendition includes lemon and white grape, which changes the flavor enough to be significant. I tried a Key Lime Margarita, which was fresh and bright. But my favorite was the Blackberry Bramble – an Elijah Craig bourbon cocktail with blackberries and rosemary honey. I love bourbon cocktails, but I tend to find that the booze is either super intense, or covered up with fruit and sugar. This cocktail maintained the taste of the bourbon while balancing the other flavors. It was absolutely fantastic, and I will be back soon to have another.
When trying to choose what kind of food you and your group are in the mood for, choose Tender, and have some of everything. And, when you’re done, head up to the rooftop bar Haven for a nightcap and a gorgeous midtown view JUST far off of Times Square to not be annoyingly touristy. For more from my visit there, follow me on Instagram @whitneygentile or use the hashtag #manhattandigest. And for more information on Tender, check out their official site. Happy eating!