Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...I dined in Midtown last week! Yes, it's true. I threw caution to the wind and set sail for Lexington Avenue at 50th Street where The National Bar and Dining Room holds court.
The National is a restaurant to be reckoned with. It is impressive. It has made Sam Sifton's "Sifty Fifty" list of impressiveness. They also decorate their website with engravings of elk smoking bubble pipes. I can get behind that.
The National boasts both an expansive bar and spacious dining room, decorated with a retro 1940's flair with a dash of Restoration Hardware thrown in (not a bad thing, by the way). Clean, sophisticated and decorative all at the same time.
I began with the National Mule, a combination of Imperia Vodka, Fresh Ginger & Lime, Fever Tree Bitter Lemon and Ginger Beer. Fizzy (from the ginger beer), refreshing just slightly tangy (the lime and fresh ginger), it was a perfect lead in to.....
OK, so in the real world people call this "Grilled Octopus." But this dish with its delicate mix of chorizo, fennel, cannellini beans and piperade was something mythical. And it deserves a name of mythical proportions. Thus, THE KRACKEN! The Kracken (you might like to check Wikipedia for more information) is a legendary sea monster of epic proportions that attacks off the coast of Norway and Iceland.
We are off the coast of Norway and Iceland. Way off...
Anyway! The tentacles (my favorite part) were blackened almost Creole style, crispy on the outside and so, so juicy on the inside. The outer crust managed to lock in both flavor and moisture. The chorizo bumped the taste up into the "epic proportions" category.
The piperade glaze was just a hint spicy, and oh-so deep and rich. Just a drizzle (as seen above) was just perfect.
I would also recommend the French Fries, served upright and delicately dusted with a light seasoning. They were accompanied by the great Sir Kensignton in his spicy formulation, which is my personal favorite variation.
Finally, a trip to the bathrooms confirmed that the National leaves no (porcelain) stone unturned.
Beautifully patterned floor tiles in seafoam greeny-blue where complemented by a simpler blue tile backsplash. An ultra-streamlined soap pump was stood out amongst the modern fixtures, and the lighting was soft and flattering. Very nice.
Overall Dining Experience: Heat
The National Bar and Dining Room
557 LEXINGTON AVE (AT 50TH ST)
NEW YORK, NY 10022
212 715 2400