Note: Social Eatz closed in March 2013. Another concept from the same chef is expected to replace it.
Social Eatz is the new restaurant from Top Chef alumnus Angelo Sosa. After coming within a whisper of winning Season 7, he came back for the current “All Stars” season, and was eliminated about two-thirds of the way through.
He has bounced around a bit. His last place, a sandwich shop called Xie Xie, lasted only a shade over a year, although a problem with air conditioning in the building—not any deficiency in Sosa’s food or its popularity—was the reason it closed.
The menu at Social Eatz is casual and inexpensive, with all of its various categories ending in a ‘z’, like “soup’z,” “salad’z,” “app’z,” “burger’z,” “taco’z,” and so forth. The most expensive item is $12—the Bibimbap (Korean for “mixed meal”) Burger. You’d have to try really hard to spend more than $25 a head.
Sosa has been giving out a lot of free food, especially at lunch time. Last Thursday, the restaurant’s first night officially open, they weren’t charging anyone. I think I was recognized, but the staff said that every meal was on the house.
The cuisine is somewhat difficult to classify, with a mixture of American and Asian influences, and yes, tacos. Culinary styles are cross-polinated in most of the dishes, an approach that could crash and burn if the spices get even slightly out of whack. I liked both items I tried, and I have to assume Sosa is really cooking here—at least for now—as I didn’t see him schmoozing in the dining room.
Hot Wings ($9) are glazed in a tamarind, garlic, shallot, plum sugar, and Japanese togaroshi sauce, the latter incorporating red chili, roasted orange peel, and black sesame. You can’t make out all of the individual flavors, but they work together brilliantly. In Korean Beef Tacos ($9), tender skirt steak is marinated in a sweet/savory sauce and served in a house-made soft tortilla with spicy bean sprout kimchee.
Service was very good, especially for a restaurant this inexpensive. The host checked my coat, and there were cloth napkins. Staff seemed to know the menu well. After I finished the wings, the server brought out a hot towel for me to wipe off the barbecue sauce. That’s not bad for a place where the food bill would have been $18. (Alcohol wasn’t available, as the liquor license hadn’t come through yet.)
I’m not sure why Sosa is content to do this kind of food, when he is clearly capable of much more. For now, this is the idiom in which he chooses to work. His brand of fusion cuisine won’t be to all tastes: to some, his palate may be too sweet, or not tart enough. But you’ve got to hand it to a guy who is serving food of this quality, in a decent-looking midtown space, for about $20 a head.
Social Eatz (232 E. 53rd Street between Second & Third Avenues, East Midtown)