In your quest to take your parents out on one more expensive meal before they leave, you may have noticed that good old Vareli, while keeping the exact same appearance, sneakily changed its name to Domain. Changes. What does this mean for you and future family visits? Restauranteurs Marcus Levine and Alison Herman find out.
Domain is a lot like Vareli. So much so, in fact, that you probably already know everything you need to about the place—decent food, fancy setting, exorbitant pricing. Meaning Columbia students should expect Domain to fill the exact same niche in the Morningside dining scene as its predecessor: a great option for when parents or significant others are footing the tab, but not somewhere you’re ever likely to go if you’re spending your own money. But as firm believers in the philosophy of #treatyoself, Bwog took it upon ourselves to try the ‘new’ arrival out and report back.
A restaurant is only as good as its complimentary carbs, and Domain starts things off on the right foot by shelling out pretzel breadsticks with a trio of dips. The whipped butter is pretty unremarkable, but the mustard is pungent and seedy and the olive oil-based puree that somehow has the texture of mayonnaise is flat-out amazing. It was almost enough to distract us from the mind-boggling $22 our entrees cost. Apiece. Without sides.
After biting the bullet and ordering scallops (Bwogger 1) and salmon (Bwogger 2), with spinach and dubiously named “sexy fries” to split, we took a few moments to soak up the scenery. At 6 pm on a Thursday, the place was practically empty, which was depressing but at least allowed for some seriously attentive service. We were almost certainly the only students in the place, making Domain a nice break from the otherwise panopticon-like stretch of sidewalk that is Broadway between 110th and 114th. Oh, and our menus came folded up like those fortune teller-type things we used to play with in the fourth grade, which was cool.
Bad news first: the “sexy fries” were awful. Shockingly so. Lukewarm, unpleasantly crunchy, and somehow totally devoid of the fluffy potato matter that makes fries so addictive, these fries don’t hold a candle to Five Guys’ superior product, available just a few doors down and for considerably less cash. Various seasonings (thyme, truffle, other fancy things) didn’t do much to elevate the dish. We barely made a dent in our hefty, $8 serving, served in a cute little frying basket that there is no way they were actually cooked in.
The entrees were served with simple but sophisticated plating, featuring thinly sliced radish and fresh greens. Each was paired with a sauce that complimented the flavor of the seafood well: a tequila cream sauce for the light, flaky salmon and a potent miso glaze for the perfectly cooked scallops. While our entrees were the centerpiece and definitely the highlight of the meal, the portion-size-to-cost ratio left Bwog hungry for more. The final element, sauteed spinach with garlic, was so unremarkable as to hardly need mentioning.
All in all, Domain is certainly not a bad restaurant, but it falls prey to the typical syndrome of the classy uptown joint: the setting and location attracts a clientele which can afford the premium prices, but the pedestrian offerings parading as original creations—combined with small portion sizes—simply don’t render the high cost worthwhile.
That fucking fancy restaurant plating via Wikimedia