Studio is a quirky (in a good way) restaurant at the Freehand Hotel in New York City. The menu is influenced by North African and Persian spices and flavors. It is a relaxed place to dine with friends and family. Recently our brunch bunch gathered there to take a deep dive into the menu.
You might miss the entrance to the cafe coming up the stair because, more often than not, foyer functions like a co-working space. It is filled with guests sipping coffee, chatting and clickety-clack of millennials hunched over their laptops. Come up the stairs and walk directly to the left past the potted palms.
Like most Americans, I start breakfast with dessert. Not pancakes and waffles but Persian love cake. Made from ground almond flour, honey and scented with rose water. It is the thicker heartier cousin of Tarta de Santiago from Spain. Could Studio's version charm a prince? I was sold the minute I could smell the rich aromas of almond, cardamom, pistachio and rose water. (If you want to try one at home, I recommend Yasmin Khan's version.)
To balance the sweet, we had their puck shaped chicken sausages and a frittata. (As much as I like sausages shaped breakfast meat, its a pain to chase it around the plate.). A frittata is always a heavy dish, but Studio's take on it is to add lots of fennel, purple basil and parsley to lighten it up with green grassy richness. The garlic chips add to a nice crunch without being overpowering.
The latkes unfortunately were disappointing. It wasn't because of the concept. It was purely execution, Studio's version is shoestringed then deep fried. Unfortunately, instead of having a crispy outside and steaming soft inside, the entire dish was one hard mess that even you couldn't take a knife to. Not even the pile of sour cream below could compensate for it.
I understand the desire to create a new interpretation and deconstruct a dish. But in this case, it makes it hard to execute unless you have someone standing over the fryer in a busy kitchen.
This is the star of the meal: spring pea hummus, poached egg and lamb merguez. Poached eggs are luxurious by themselves, but on top a fresh peas? Ooooohhhh so goood. Add north african spices. Suddenly this dish as a spicy and earthy flavor that makes this dish amazing.
Got time for brunch in NY this weekend? Make reservations and visit Studio. You can walk off brunch by walking up Lexington Avenue between 28th and 29th street and visit Kalustyan's crazy library of spices.
Studio @ the Freehand Hotel
23 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10010, USA
Kent is a management consultant who has spent years traveling for work. His refuge is looking for the perfect meal so that he can reproduce it at home with his wife and friends.