Monday, October 21, 2013

Pour Us a Glass of All Your Alcohol

Bacon-Wrapped Lamb Chops -- Employees Only
Employees Only

Admittedly, it has taken us an awfully long time to make our way to Employees Only, considering it is located in the West Village and not in some far-off land, like Brooklyn.  But our reluctance toward venturing into the place stems from one of its signature characteristics: it's "sceney."
Sceney = A Place Full of People Who Care. We Don't Care
As previously stated, we greatly dislike "sceney" restaurants, because we much prefer early-bird-special, geriatric "scenes" than those where people try so hard to be fabulous.  Employees Only tends to attract this kind of socially needy crowd because it is modeled after a 1920s speakeasy, its front window proclaiming the space a psychic's office rather than the home of absurdly overpriced cocktails.
Fortune Says We'll Be Tipsy Tonight
Now, maybe we're missing something, but all of these speakeasy throwback establishments that keep cropping up are decidedly not our thing.  ALCOHOL IS LEGAL NOW, GUYS.  Drink up and stop making such a production about it.

Enough Complaining Considering We're Not Even Inside Yet
We make our way past the bar and toward the back dining room of Employees Only, where we are seated promptly despite our lack of reservation ("I really thought I was at the wrong place because you ALWAYS make a reservation." "I don't make reservations when you have to do so by phone.  I don't like to talk to people.")
We Did Not Receive One of These "Exclusive" Pamphlets
Within seconds of watching Ginger's face flicker in shadowy light, Vodka gets down to her most neurotic, yet completely necessary (if you live in her mind), task: she blows out the candle on our table.
Candle in the Wind, Indeed
You see, Vodka has decided that flickering candles have the same effect on her as strobe lights, which is really no effect at all, besides the fact that she doesn't like them.  Evidently, however, Employees Only is VERY into their lighted candles, as not one but two workers approach nearly instantaneously and attempt to hold a match to the wick.

"No, no, no, no, no!" Ginger manages to sputter.  "We don't like it."

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is reason number one why we will never be "sceney."
Employees Only, Pre-Onslaught of Sceniness
While we are technically at Employees Only to eat Rocco DiSpirito's Best Thing I Ever Ate UNDER WRAPS dish, the bacon-wrapped lamb chops, we are much more consumed by the cocktail menu, which is, in two words, EXTENSIVE and EXPENSIVE.
Are They Storing the Booze on the Roof?! Why Is It So Much?
Vodka eventually settles on the Vesper ("It has vodka AND gin -- it's like us in a glass") and Ginger, on the Ginger Smash (and based on the strength of said cocktail, that moniker is about to come to life).
Muddled Ginger = Name of Her Memoir
The Vesper, which is crisp, delicious, and ridiculously strong ("Pour us a glass of all your alcohol"), is right up Vodka's alley, while the Ginger Smash is less sweet than Ginger had anticipated.
Apparently, Cranberries Aren't As Sweet As She Thought They Were
Considering both beverages are $15, we think they could have been a little more heavy-handed with the pours, but by the end of round one, Vodka is already proclaiming, "This is my favorite drink ever," so all is not lost for Employees Only.
Vesper = How to Go Broke in a Glass
We order the bacon-wrapped lamb chops with salsa verde, the bone marrow poppers, the ricotta gnocchi, and the cheese plate.  As we wait, a small loaf of pumpernickel bread appears, with a spread which can only be described as "ranch dressing."  We lap it up heartily (though whether this carb consumption is due to the actual tastiness of the bread or the fact that we are currently awash in boozy cocktails is anyone's guess).
Bread with a Side of Hidden Valley
The lamb chops soon arrive, and after a second of trying to eat them daintily with a knife and fork, we soon begin gnawing on them, Fred Flintstone-style.
Where's Barney When You Need Him?
The chops manage to be crispy on the outside and extremely tender on the inside, and despite the prevalence of wrapped bacon, it somehow doesn't add much to the lamb itself.
It Seems Bacon Does Not, In Fact, Solve Everything
Instead, the salse verde is a much more beneficial accompaniment, and while we certainly enjoy said chops (especially because the meat is not too fatty, as we have had some epic fights with a certain restaurant concerning fatty lamb chops), we're not blown away enough to offer them more than four stars.
We're Sure Employees Only Is Devastated By This News
The bone marrow poppers are... interesting.  A small helping of bone marrow is stuck inside puff pastry poofs, and while we had enjoyed bone marrow when we tried it previously, primarily because it was salty, in Employees Only's greasy and not-all-that-flavorful preparation, we're not super into it.
Pretty, but...
...mostly full of...
In contrast, the cheese plate is the one component on this menu, besides the Vesper, which is something to write home about.  By this point, we are too three-sheets-to-the-wind from our drinks to remember what a single item on the plate is, but just know that all three cheeses, along with the accompanying lavash bread and various nut and oil accoutrements, are just about the best we have ever tasted.
They're Much More Generous With Their Cheese Than With Their Drinks
We Could Do Without That Green Nonsense Getting in the Way of the Bread
Looks Like Pita Crisps, Tastes Like Heaven
The cheese plate is so good, in fact, that it manages to make our usual favorite menu item -- pasta -- almost an afterthought.  The ricotta gnocchi with mushrooms are tasty enough (though Ginger seems to think they're the consistency of tofu, which is never a positive comparison).  They taste almost overwhelmingly like soy sauce, which is a relatively good thing, because that means they're salty, but overall, they just don't hold a candle, lit or otherwise, to the cheese plate.
Essentially Beef and Broccoli, Sans the Beef and the Broccoli
So Just to Confirm, That's NOT Tofu, Right?
For dessert, we settle on the chocolate pudding with hazelnuts, caramel, and a fudge brownie, mostly because it has the words "pudding, caramel, and brownie" in it.  Unfortunately, at the risk of sounding ridiculous (though this is never an actual "risk" we're concerned about), the dessert tastes so overwhelmingly of CHOCOLATE that all of the components get lost in a big blob of chocolate flavor.  At the very least, this dessert is begging for a dollop of whipped cream on top, and as it stands, we're not impressed.
You Heard It Here First -- Chocolate Pudding Can Indeed Be Too Chocolatey
Bring on Bill Cosby and His Pudding Snacks
We are also not into the astoundingly LOUD atmosphere which has by now permeated Employees Only's space.  To say we are now shouting at each other just to be heard above the din is no exaggeration, and the bar area is packed like a rush hour subway train.  After laying down a solid $86 a piece (as a note, we didn't even get an entree -- this "meal" of appetizers and cocktails cost $172), we push (literally push) our way out of the establishment, mumbling all the way about why people would choose to put themselves through this rigmarole on a regular basis.  When Vodka attempts to record this sentiment in her notes, she discovers the following day that what she has actually written is as follows:

"Who goes verte aaa a go-to place?"

And more than anything else, this nonsensical sentence proves why it is a good thing that we don't live in the time of illegal alcohol: you send us into a speakeasy, pour us a couple of glasses of moonshine, and we lose all powers of articulation.

Verte aaa, to you, too, Employees Only.

Employees Only's Bacon-Wrapped Lamb Chops: 4 stars

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