Credit: Cassandra Wang
Playground in Korean translates to ‘noreetuh,’ a name that is very fitting for this East Village Hawaiian restaurant. Leave what you think you know about Hawaiian dishes elsewhere. This Michelin recognized restaurant is known for its adventurous fusion dishes that straw away from our 50th state’s fare. Step inside this intimate and chic spot, and you are greeted with walls adorned with polaroid pictures of their diners. This is in addition to little touches of Hawaiian décor like a surfboard and underwater photographs. The interior is divided into two seating areas: one opposite the petite bar, and a more private dining space with brick walls on the opposite side.
At the helm of the kitchen is Chef and Co-Owner Chung Chow. Paired with his uniquely crafted menu is an award-winning wine list with over 250 wines by Managing Partner and Co-Owner Jin Ahn. Chef Chow was born in Hong Kong and raised on Oahu in Hawaii. His menu implements a skilled French technique paired with a modern fusion Hawaiian menu with influences from Japan and Korea.
Daniel was on hand to help us last Wednesday evening. He was not only extraordinarily attentive, he was genuinely warm, friendly, and knowledgeable of the menu, wine pairings, and the history of the restaurant. He made my guest and I laugh and revel throughout our experience. Noreetuh is one of very (very) few Hawaiian restaurants in the New York City metro area, let alone the Lower East Side. If you’ve ever been curious about Hawaiian food, noreetuh is where you should head first.
The menu starts with an Musubis. Musubis are similar to sushi, or more specifically like nigiri ‘sandwich’ sushi. Selections included a tender Beef Tongue with cilantro and crunchy peanuts ($9); Pork Jowl with scallion and a hint of ginger ($9); and a Hawaiian staple of Spicy Spam, soy mayo and jalapeño ($8). If you never had Spam, try it here. I love Spam and have been enjoying it for almost ten years after my husband introduced it to me. He slices it, spreads strawberry jam on top of each slice, and bakes it till caramelized.
My favorite was the Pork Jowl, which I can’t stop thinking about. I would order it again in a second.
One particular not to miss is the Bone Marrow Bread Pudding with Hokkaido uni and topped with truffles ($25). Anytime I see Bone Marrow on the menu, I never resist the urge to order. The truffles on top of this smaller dish were the winner. The Big-eye Tuna Poke with pickled jalapeños, macadamia nuts and seaweed ($22) is also a smart dish to try.
For entrées, noreetuh serves pasta, fish and meat dishes. These include the Pineapple Braised Pork Belly served with fresh corn polenta and pickled mushrooms ($22); Imperial Wagyu with beef fat rice, pickled garlic and radish, which can also be ordered with Miyazaki A5 wagyu ($34/$70); and Kalua Pork Cavatelli with pickled cabbage and Parmigiano-Reggiano ($19). The Imperial Wagyu is ideal for splitting especially if you have already created your own ‘appetizer tasting’.
Monkfish Liver Torchon with yuzu, pickled pear, ponzu and cilantro, served with toasted King’s Hawaiian rolls (of course!) is another great choice as a main course.
A true destination for wine lovers, noreetuh spotlighting an extensive collection with an emphasis on French and German selections. Their French wine selection is particularly impressive. The menu features an expansive Riesling section, highlighting selections with 25 plus years of aging. They offer wines by the glass and bottle, and guests can also bring their own bottles for a small corkage fee. In my opinion, the only way to truly experience noreetuh is with their wine pairing.
Dessert at noreetuh is a perfect pairing for those with a sweet tooth. Chef’s Chocolate Haupia Sundae, for example, is a completely different sundae experience with almonds, graham crackers and coconut ice cream ($5 half, $9 full). The signature dessert of the restaurant is a sweet and tangy Bruléed Hawaiian Pineapple cut in quarters, dressed with a lime zest and alaea salt ($10). What stole the show and crafted the perfect ending was their Black Sesame Cheesecake. It didn’t stand a chance, I must have eaten it in under two minutes. I would be back just for that as soon as tonight.
Noreetuh is open seven days a week for dinner beginning at 5:30pm. Monday-Thursday until 10pm, Friday and Saturday until 10:30pm, and Sunday until 9pm.
http://www.noreetuh.com // 646-892-3050