When’s the last time a cloned restaurant was actually better the second time? Usually, the clone is a poor shadow of the original. Occasionally they’re equal, if the management is really good.
The East Pole breaks the rules. Billed as an uptown version of The Fat Radish, it’s a significant improvement on its predecessor. Not that the Fat Radish was that bad, but when we visited, the food wasn’t impressive enough to overcome poor service and a room so loud it was headache-inducing. Perhaps it has improved; I wasn’t inclined to go back.
The concept is cleverly re-imagined for the Upper East Side ecosystem. The room has a bright sheen, casual but refined, with edison bulbs, blonde wood tables, plush black leather banquettes, and soft music in the background. You can be comfortable here, and don’t have to shout to be heard.
Like the Fat Radish, the restaurant wears its farm-to-table ethos on its sleeve, with a list of purveyors on the back of the menu, and servers in brown aprons as if they’d just walked in from the barn. Our server delivered a sermon on pickling, which he does in his spare time at home. After a while, it felt like too much information. The menu is vaguely British (Scotch Egg, Fish Pie), to an extent you’d barely notice. Although reprinted daily, there’s a sizable list of recited specials with quite intricate descriptions: why?
Prices at the East Pole are a bit higher than at the Fat Radish. A Piedmontese Flank Steak at the Radish ($28) becomes a Piedmontese New York Strip uptown ($42). What seems (from the description) to be the same Heritage pork chop is $28 downtown, $32 uptown. But the bacon cheeseburger is $19 in both places. The room is so much nicer that I’d gladly pay a few bucks more.
In lieu of a bread service, the meal starts with a plate of marinated radishes (above left), much as it was at the Fat Radish. Our party of three shared a couple of appetizers. The Grilled Cheese & House Made Pickles ($8; above right) is the grilled cheese sandwich of the gods, so sweet it could be dessert. Vermont cheddar is melted with Branston pickles and root vegetables marinated in sugar. One modestly hungry person could order just that, and be done for the night.
The Peekytoe Crab and Avocado Toast ($15; below left) was nearly as enjoyable.
A dish called the Macro Plate ($22; above right) is the nightly vegetarian dish, changing according to the vegetables in season. I didn’t sample it, but our dinner guest seemed pleased.
The Fish Pie ($29; above left) was stupendous, but Wendy thought the chef had gone overboard with fennel. The Pork Chop ($29; above right) was terrific.
The wine list is wrapped in a cute, leather-bound volume. A 2011 Sattler Zweigelt was one of the more enjoyable young wines we’ve had in a while. The seasonal cocktails, prepared by bow-tied bartenders, are first-rate. Try the Maple Old Fashioned ($15), if they still have it.
Reservations have been tough to come by. We had a 7:00pm event, so a 5:30 booking on a Friday evening was fine with us. It was all they had. If the food is this good every night, I can see why they’re always booked.
The East Pole (133 E. 65th St. between Park & Lexington Avenues, Upper East Side)
Food: British-inflected farm-to-table
Service: Solicitous uptown charm with a faux farmhouse veneer
Ambiance: A casual but refined room that’s just right for the uptown