Social Eatz has its finger on the pulse when it should be in the kitchen.
Miss Manners would be appalled at the amount of texting, tweeting, Googling and god knows what else we do on our phones during dinner. But at celebrity chef Angelo Sosa’s new Asian-American comfort-food fusion restaurant Social Eatz, that is exactly what diners are encouraged to do.
Naturally, my first line of action upon entering the bright orange-and-white eatery in Midtown for dinner one night was to check in on Foursquare. As I ordered a simple glass of the Matua Sauvignon Blanc ($8), my companion pored over the short, intricately detailed cocktail menu. I recommended the monsoon sour ($12), a smooth combo of sweet St. Germaine and Woodford Reserve bourbon that gets a bite from a dash of Sriracha, which I had tried and enjoyed on another occasion. Always one to be contrary, he instead asked the bartender for the coconut curry daiquiri ($12). The bartender’s answer was so interesting I tweeted it: "Bartender, ‘OK, this is only the 4th time I have made it. Hope it’s good.’ Boys say yes, I say bah." Really, it just tasted like cold rum with a dash of curry.
After drinks, we were seated and, while waiting for our appetizers, started discussing the demise of social network pioneer Friendster. The smoked ribs ($9) came out as tender as they did on all of my visits, and the pineapple barbeque sauce brushed on them balanced perfectly with the rich meat and a bottle of hoppy Speakeasy Prohibition Ale ($7). I liked the spicy chili sauce coating the hot wings ($9), but the actual meat on the chicken bits was tough and stringy. The crispy spring rolls ($7) fared better and Sosa’s brazen use of calamansi, a Filipino fruit that tastes like a mix between a lime and a mandarin orange, made this dish’s tart and savory flavors stand out more.
To decide on entrées, we engaged our friendly waiter, who had no problem telling us to skip the chicken, corn and coconut tacos ($7) and go for the light chili-kissed tilapia ($8) instead. He was right. Soon enough, however, I was tweeting at my dining companion about the Kung Pao chicken ($9) served as a sandwich, despite the menu giving no indication.
All of that thumbing really worked up my appetite, so when my plate of Korean beef tacos ($9) arrived, I put the phone down and dug in. They had a decent, smoky flavor and, unlike most of the dishes, weren’t cloyingly sweet. Unfortunately, they were also dry and were saved only by a healthy squirt of Sriracha. I liked the juicy bulgogi (Korean for "fire meat") burger ($11) better, and appreciated the crisp char it sported on the outside. Their bibimbap burger ($12) is also a good option, and a slow-cooked egg on top adds a creamy richness to the picked carrots and toasted bun.
In case you don’t want to spend over $10 on a five-bite burger, the crisp-skinned imperialist hot dog ($8) melds mild chicken sausage with a pile of spicy relish in a pleasing way and fills about the same amount of stomach space as the patties. Though laden with delicious candied wasabi and plum ponzu dressing, the noodle salad ($6) warranted a "Yikes! Too sweet for me" tweet. Instead, I preferred the fresh-tasting tomato curry ($5) soup, which has a nice sour tang from added vinegar in addition to a kick from the curry.
My meal ended with the decidedly not-a-cream-puff yuzu cream puffs ($6)— when I told the digital world about my disappointment, the restaurant actually tweeted back, "it’s almost like a lighter beignet!" It’s not, but the yuzu curd is good enough anyway. Their other dessert, a tiny brownie ($6) that tasted of burnt sugar, was good, but the shot of rice milk on the side was too thick to comfortably wash it down.
If you want a good Asian-American fusion burger and an excuse to be antisocial with real people, this is the place to be. Social Eatz proved a perfect joint for tourists in Midtown hot to eat at a Top Chef’s restaurant and for business people looking to scarf a quick lunch. But otherwise, the novelty quickly tweeted out.
252 E. 53rd St. (betw. 2nd & 3rd Aves.),