Chris Santos of Beauty and Essex and Stanton Social, and more famously known for his hit TV show “Chopped”, has partnered with Rich Wolf of the TAO Group(Tao, Lavo and nightclubs in NYC, Vegas and Sydney) to create their newest venture Vandal. Vandal is a beautiful blend of street art and street food that when combined brings you a super sexy, sophisticated, new restaurant, that opened on the Lower East Side this week.
Santos has a deep affinity for street food and Wolf has a strong passion for street art and so when they decided to partner, they came up with Vandal. It is said that Santos and the executive chef Kavourakis spent many months touring and tasting street foods of South America, Southeast Asia and Europe to get inspiration for the menu. Wolf commissioned prominent and internationally renowned street artist or “Vandals” to decorate the establishment. The artist include HUSH, Eelus, Apexer, Vhils, Shepard Fairey, Will Barras, and Tristan Eaton. The artwork in the space is expansive, impressive and is wonderfully blended and curated.
Vandal is a palatial 22,000 square feet space with a lounge, a bar, and two distinctively different dining rooms. With bouncers at the front door, you enter the restaurant by passing through a chic and exclusive floral shop, Ovando. You can immediately smell the goodness as soon as you walk in. You then walk into the restaurant and are greeted by the hostess and a delightfully cute 11 foot sculpture of a purple break dancing bunny, that was created by the Rockwell Group. There are also two distinct dining area. HUSH has painted three beautiful semi nude women in the front dining room that exudes romance and sophistication. The back dining room being less formal, but more loud and vibrant and buzz filled, exhibits street art and graffiti in a visually stunning bi-level dining room.
In an atmosphere that is very club like, you wouldn’t expect much from the food, but if you are familiar with Santos and his other joints, Beauty and Essex and Stanton Social, then you know the food will be the main attraction. The menu is very diverse with lots of different ethnic street foods. We had a hard time choosing so we took direction from our waitress. With so many small plates we ordered a large variety of dishes to share. I love the small plates as you get to try such a variety, that your palate will be dancing for joy. Some of the must tries are the crunchy jicama tostadas, the spicy Korean rice cakes, cacio pepe arancini balls, the Peruvian ceviche, the bahn mi Vietnamese rolls, the Argentinian empanadas, and the Vandal street pizza. For dessert the Smores were fabulous and I especially loved the churros with the spicy jalapeno chocolate. There is so much on the menu and so much we did not get a chance to try, that I will surely be back real soon.
We visited Vandal during opening week and I know it will immediately become New York City’s hottest restaurant and lounge. Vandal is one of those chic clubby New York restaurant that you want to see and be seen in. If you want to impress your date or an out-of-town guest, Vandal is the place to go. This past week it had a barrage of celebrities, and a whose who of NYC dine here. You must visit Vandal soon, and see for yourself, as you will truly be wowed!