Malt House (Financial District)
The Malt House FiDi.9 Maiden Ln, New York, NY 10038. Website: www.themalthousefidi.com
Vin and I attended a press dinner for the Financial District outpost of the Malt House with some of our food blogger friends, and we instantly felt like we were in the modern day Manhattan version of “Cheers” at this American tavern. This downtown location is wayyy roomier and nicer than the one in the Village; like the sophisticated older brother version compared to the fun frat brother digs.
The Malt House Fidi has the largest collection of whiskey in downtown Manhattan, as evidenced by not one, but TWO beautiful bars. This place also has an intriguing and tasty cocktail list, an extensive beer menu, and one of the best deals for whiskey flights in town.
Considering the owners are Irish, the Malt House is sure steeped in American History. The downstairs area, noted as the Armoury, features a lot of Americana and flags, and the décor is woody and warm and inviting. You are immediately drawn to the bar, not just because your main goal is to get some booze, but to marvel in the beautiful construction and lighting in the underground room.
Eoin and Darren paid sick attention to detail for their crown jewel. They took care to keep the original foundation of the Malt House, but the bones are so classic and modern at the same time. There’s reclaimed wood without being too rustic. Head past the huge lit up bar along the right and you’ll hit the mezzanine, a set of tables that overlook the main dining area with a great view of the beautiful bar. One of the second level doors leads to the Boardroom, aka the private cave. Look up the definition of refined and you’ll probably see a picture of this stately room. Rich wood and leather fill the Boardroom, with classy leather chairs, a big screen TV, and a solid wood dining set for ten distinguished guests who would like to dine (and watch TV and drink!) in style.
We started the evening with drinks, and I partook in an option from the beer list (Raging Bitch IPA, a Belgian style ale that’s not as bitter as most IPAs) and tried a Manhattan-style cocktail called the King of NY that was clean and not too sweet. Next time, I’m coming here for the straight up whiskey flight!
Now to the food: Chef Armando Avila also commands the kitchen at this location and changed the menu to be more upscale and fancy. He started us off with next level deviled eggs served in an egg carton tray. How resourceful is that! The eggs were whipped with avocado and topped with crispy bacon bits and sri racha. It was like fancy avocado toast without the toast. Half a dozen of these would be perfect for breakfast.
Next up, the artichoke and crap dip. This hot dish was full of real crab and was surprisingly light and not greasy. Everyone liked how this was a different spin on bar food, and the long sliced plantain fried chips were a winner. There was a light dusting of this cool ranch Doritos flavor on the chips that paired really well with the dip. I really liked this one.
Sorry, Popeyes and KFC… you’ve got nothing on the Malt House’s buttermilk bites. Pieces of juicy chicken are dipped in a basic flour batter, fried and served with a jalapeno aioli and ranch dip. This green sauce is good (green sauces usually are) and the ranch dressing was mild and light. You could tell these sauces were homemade because the flavor was just clean and simple. The chicken is tasty and the crust is crisp, and HELLO! delicious popcorn chicken bites! But seriously though… those green and white dipping sauces.
Then these perfect short rib sliders came out. They were topped with homemade spicy and sweet pickles and caramelized shallots with OMG WTF seven-hour juicy braised beef and a perfect potato bun. There’s a secret sauce (again, with the sauces… I know, I’m obsessed!) that is like Thousand Island but like a million island times better. The caramelized shallots remind me of the ones my grandma makes, and I know that sh*t was a labor of love because I remember watching how much time it took to make the perfectly charred, sweet and partially chewy fried shallots. That flavor is everything, and it made the classic Malt House slider one of my favorite dishes. I’m drooling just writing about it right now. If we each didn’t have our own slider, things would have gotten tense. Friendships would have been tested. As in, I love my husband and all but it might have been a 70/30 split of a slider and you know… “happy wife, happy life” is all I’m gonna say about that.
We tried the burger with melty Gruyere cheese (instant cheese porn), apple wood smoked bacon, the right amount of red onion, roasted tomato and Bibb lettuce. The pesto aioli spread inside the MH-branded bun made it fancy. The beef was effortlessly medium rare, and you got this good funk and savoryness from the bacon and cheese. The burger comes with sweet potato fries that were that magical mix of mashed potato inside and crisp skin outside. There’s a little bucket of ketchup on the plate, but bitch please… there’s no need for it. Chef knows his burgers and that’s what’s up.
Next, we tried a salmon po’ boy covered in Cajun spices. It deceivingly looks like a burger. It’s served on the same MH-branded brioche like the burger. It has those f*cking amazing grilled onions. But nope, it’s a super tender hunk of salmon. The seasoning is spot on and not too salty, and it’s totally balanced by the creamy fresh avocado (you can tell it’s fresh because it’s not brown at all!). My only teensy, weensy minor comment is that if this was served on French bread, it would be more like a po’ boy. Otherwise, this was a really good blackened salmon sandwich.
OK, so this next dish was definitely not what we expected. What came to the table was this elegant plate that looked like it belonged at a fancy restaurant menu, not at a bar, even if it was a gastropub. It was a dish you’d rubberneck for in slow motion as the server would carry it past you and you’d mouth to your drinking companion one of the best quotes from Daniel Day Lewis’ “There Will Be Blood”: “What’s this? Why don’t I own this? Why don’t I own this???” A tower of boneless, roasted, buttery chicken was presented atop mashed potato, mushrooms and sautéed kale. Roast chicken is one of the hot menu items these days with French style of le poulet invading NYC, yet I am always wary of trying it for fear it will be disappointing and the other D-word: Dry. Nothing to fear here, folks. The chicken is tender and well seasoned, AND it comes with the bonus prize of crispy skin! The mashed potatoes are cream and sweet; the mushrooms add an additional crunch, and the kale tastes like buttery spinach. This was a really well conceived and executed dish. Don’t be scared to order it if you’re not in the mood for a burger.
The next item is a mainstay at both Malt House locations. Fish tacos! The fish in the FiDi location changes all the time while mahi mahi is always used in the MH in the Village. Today’s catch was a grilled mako with crunchy cabbage, black bean puree and avocado salsa (not guacamole). This salsa was another magical green sauce that wasn’t just creamy avocado, but it had a good spicy kick to it, too! The fish was pretty fishy tasting. There was a nice splash of citrus (thanks, lime wedge!) and you get three soft torillas to a plate.
Malt House has recently hired a legit pastry chef for both downtown and Village locations. Chef Francisco Gonzalez created the sweet treats that ended our meal. We started off with beignets with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. These shareable plate of doughnut balls were airy and properly sugared… a simple and clean dessert.
Next, we tried crepes filled with berries and plantains, with the classic chocolate sauce drizzle and scoop of vanilla ice cream. The crepe layers were very light and the plantain filling was a nice touch to the expected sweet banana.
The next dessert was my favorite of the four we tried: a cheesecake with a crust made from crackers and almonds. OoooooOOOOOOOoohhh… creative! The cheesecake was creamy and not too sweet, and you could really taste the almond flavor in the crust. You don’t get nearly as nice desserts from most of your local sports bars. Seriously, dude. This was a nice surprise.
The last sweet bite was a basic chocolate mousse with berries. It was between a mousse and pudding consistency (both are desserts I love) and it had more of a dark chocolate flavor though it appeared to be milk chocolate mousse. Sneaky. haha
We really liked everything about this place, from the ambiance and service to the food and drink. And what we’ll like even MORE about it is that the owners plan to expand and open a location by Grand Central! That’s right by my office. Which means I’ll be hanging out there every other day after work to get those amazing sliders.