Good news: You have a shot at a reservation at Dame restaurant in NYC. Everyone and their mother is in Europe this summer, so the city is quieter than normal. That also means that those difficult-to-get dinner reservations are suddenly within reach. In 2020, Dame started as a popup restaurant, but had to face the challenges of the pandemic soon after. The place quickly pivoted to a grocery that served up a special of fish and chips twice a week. Word spread about that dish — some called it the best fish and chips in NYC — and next thing you knew, people lined up around the corner to get in on the action.
Fast-forward a year and change, and Dame opened in 2021 in its current incarnation as a seafood-focused English restaurant. Today it’s still near impossible to get a reservation. So the question is, is Dame restaurant in NYC worth it? Here’s the review.
Dame restaurant is the quintessential NYC West Village boîte. It’s not a gastropub, as it’s missing the requisite 1) bar and 2) dark English wood pub vibe. In its place is a pretty barebones dining room, with a dozen or so tables and counter seating. The setup doesn’t encourage you to linger over a long meal. A number of the tables have stool seats with no backs, and there’s no cushioning on any of the seats. The atmosphere is slightly more upscale than a seafood shack. The difference? The distinctly New York crowd. That, and every single table is booked from 5:30 until the last seating of the night, past 10:30pm. Diners are pumped to be there, given all the hype.
Appropriately, he highlight at Dame is the food. Plates are meant to be shared, and you’re encouraged to sample as much as you can possibly eat. The dishes are slightly larger than those for tapas. For two people, Dame suggests you order five dishes or so. Is the food as special as reviews say it is? Well, there’s certainly a clear talent among kitchen staff to elevate the most simple dishes.
Dame comes on strong with the starters. The grilled oysters in a Chartreuse bernaise sauce stand out. You should order at least three per person. The menu changes frequently, but the smoked whitefish croquettes and the squid and shishito pepper skewers are staples.
The fish and chips is required eating. It’s what put the restaurant on the map. For summer, Dame substituted a lobster salad for the lobster pot pie. While we can’t give the salad the same level of reverence as the pie, it’s very good. Granted, the lobster isn’t plentiful, but each piece of lettuce is garnished with just the right amount of herbs and seasoning.
Each plate at Dame is a surprise and and unexpected delight. You wonder how you can be wowed by something that sounds simple, but Ed Szymanski is no run-of-the-mill chef. Except for the fish and chips, though, I wouldn’t say this is a restaurant that will make its way into my regular rotation. It’s partly because of the extremely underwhelming wine list, especially by-the-glass options. Dame only had one red, and it was a chilled Gamay. The place could seriously elevate the experience with a Coravin wine program. Plenty of people would be more than happy to pay $50 or even $100/glass of wine to pair with the food. In the absence of exceptional wine, stick to the cocktails.
I hope that on my visit, the service was an anomaly. The guy who took care of us was indifferent at best. Waitstaff overall weren’t passionate about the food or all that helpful or informative either. It just didn’t seem like the team was excited to be there. Not sure if it was an off night, but the service was uninspired.
You should go once for the food.
Q: Is Dame open everyday?
A: Dame is open Monday to Saturday.
Q: Do you need a reservation to eat at Dame?
A: Absolutely, and it will be near impossible to get a prime-time spot. However, Mondays are first come, first served, so line up around 4:30pm to put your name in. Otherwise check a few days before as there are always cancellations and last-minute openings.
Q: Does Dame have cocktails?
A: Yep. Cocktails are Dame’s strong suit; wine is not.