Last Friday night, I met a friend for dinner at Stix, the new “concept” restaurant by the 33 Management Group. Stix’ website claims that diners will eat global cuisine in a chic space with awe-inspiring architectual design. The description actually uses the word “revolutionary” to describe the concept. I am going to make a grand assertion and may live to regret it, but here goes. Unless you are in Disneyland (and even then I’m not sure), “concept” dining is a bad idea destined for failure, especially if you promise your patrons a revolutionary experience.
Stix’ “concept” seems more like a “gimmick”. Basically, all of their “signature” dishes, which consists of half the menu, are little bits of protein or vegetable cooked on a flavored stick. Our waitress explained that the flavored stick would infuse the protein/vegetable bit with the flavors of the stick. For example, the Grilled Lamb on Citrus Rosemary is a small piece of lamb (a bite or two) cooked on a stick that has been infused with Citrus and Rosemary and in turn, the stick should infuse the lamb with those flavors. It doesn’t work; it’s stupid.
We ordered four of the Stix Signature plates:
Shrimp on Thai Coconut Lime STIX
flavored with lime, pineapple and sesame (Thailand)
Duck on Citrus Rosemary STIX*
honey, lime and ginger glaze (Asia)
Seared Scallops on Ginger Mango STIX*
orange oil and sesame (Australia)
Grilled Lamb on Citrus Rosemary STIX*
with cucumber raita (Greece)
None of the protein bits absorbed the flavors of the stick. One of them had decent flavor (the scallop), but it seemed to come from the sauce or seasoning on the actual piece of scallop (ie outside of the food, not inside). The rest of the food was mediocre. The duck was totally flavorless (we actually left one of our three bits). The shrimp tasted like shrimp with nothing on it, and the lamb was dry. The aforementioned scallops were actually really good until my friend bit into one only to crunch down on something very very hard. She looked shocked, said nothing for 15 seconds, then spit out her mouthful of food and explained, “sorry, I thought I broke my tooth, but I think it’s okay.”
Furthermore, none of the dishes tasted like the place with which they were labeled. Stix boldly labels the dishes with the country after whose cuisine they are modelled, just in case you want to know in which country your revolution is taking place. I wanted to be transported to Thailand, Australia, Asia, and Greece, and instead I was left sort of hungry in a bar with decent atmosphere (certainly not awe-inspiring).
I was hungry because there wasn’t very much food. Each plate comes with three stick/meat bits, so approximately 3-6 bites per Signature Dish. First of all, this “group of three” was annoying. Stix seems like the ideal venue for sharing with your dinner compatriots (since everything is pre-apportioned), but how many people go out in groups of three? Certainly this does happen, but I would bet that most diners come in groups of two or four, and having three bits makes sharing awkward. Second of all, I would have had to eat at least 4 of the $9 plates to feel reasonably satisfied (and I’m not very big), and at that point, I might as well have gone to a good restaurant and gotten a $40 entree. So anyway, after I’d eaten my twenty bites of mediocre food, I was still too hungry to get dessert and decided to get the cheese plate. It was fine, totally forgettable.
In sum, if you’re stranded on Stanhope Street some night and you’re not hungry but you’re looking for a bar with a nice, but not awe-inspiring atmosphere, Stix would probably work for you. Under any other circumstances, I would avoid it.