Incredible does not begin to describe my experience at Punch Bar & Grill. I expected great food from Chef Matthew Shoemaker, Executive Chef of Punch Restaurant, but what I received blew me away.
Punch Bar & Grill is located on Broadway and 21st street right in the heart of great stores, café’s, and near always busy, Union Square. The bright orange awning on this bar style restaurant invites you in with big open doors letting in the gorgeous weather we have been having lately. The nice thing is that even with all the humidity, you do not feel it coming into the restaurant, as they manage to keep it cool enough to enjoy your meal and wine.
The décor is that of an upscale bar and grill with cloth dividers above each booth making it uniquely intimate. The restaurant is draped with white table cloths in the dining room, and giant artwork on the walls giving you that homeyness without being too “cozy bar and grill”. Dark wood influences this restaurant and the large leather booths suck you right in as the ambiance of cheerful wait staff and an enticing menu encourage you to stay.
What sparked my interest in this restaurant was their irresistible happy hour of $5.00 House wines, $5.00 Well cocktails, and $4.00 Beers, and which made me feel the need to share this soon to be new “favorite HH spot”. What made me stay was the wonderful menu they offer.
The Happy Hour Villa Visco IGT Pinot Noir surprised me as a HH wine because it was smooth, seductive, and very fruit forward with soft tannins. Many happy hour wines you try around NYC and in restaurants are “OK” wines, put on the specials to entice after work crowds, and are offered at very good prices. Many of the wines you find on other happy hour lists (not at Punch) are pleasant, but acidic, fruity, and just wines that you know what your getting for $5.00/glass, which is why this Pinot in particular surprised me; its very good!
We can thank the Wine Director, Charlie Foster, for his happy hour selections as well as a wonderful wine list offered at Punch. There is a selection of Sparkling, White, Red, Rose, and Sangria, all at good prices for the wines being offered, and certainly ones that pair beautifully with the dishes you will have. Great selection Charlie!
Onto the delicious food, because well, this is where Chef truly amazed me. Again, I was expecting good food because Punch has great reviews and the menu is mouthwatering, but if I can be completely honest… Sushi restaurants better watch out because the String Bean Tempura at Punch is awesome! I’m talking about some of the best tempura I’ve had in NYC, and I eat tempura bi-weekly when going out for sushi, but Punch changed my perspective. This appetizer at $8.00 is a huge portion, perfect for two, served with a slightly spicy Hoisen Sauce that is out of this world, YUM! Every bite of this dish was perfectly salty, sweet, and oh so delightful!
Next came the 5 Spiced Duck Breast with Duck Confit Fried Rice and Apricot Mustard; Holy S**t. Pardon my typing language, but I have to be honest and tell you that was my thought upon my first bite of this dish. I am in love, the Duck was perfectly cooked and so tender, laying over a delicious sweet and tangy apricot mustard that was insanely addicting; that if I was alone I would have licked the plate clean. The fried rice was one of a kind with Duck Confit pieces; it was crunchy, juicy, flavorful, and had sprouts and bok choy intertwined with it… WOW.
After ten minutes in my food coma I was having from this lovely dinner, I had to dive into dessert. I was in a debate between the Ice Cream Sandwiches and the Yuzu Cheesecake. I chose the cheesecake because it was better for one person and recommended by the staff as a “have to try this” kind of dessert. I was already suffering from deliciously full disease and couldn’t think of putting another thing into my stomach, but couldn’t leave without trying dessert because the dinner was so fabulous.
Perfect choice; the cheesecake is incredible! Yuzu cheesecake has a Macadamia Crust topped with Ginger Ice cream and tropical fruit compote. This cheesecake was smooth, creamy, and not as heavy as I expected, which was nice considering my brain kept saying “eat” and my stomach kept asking, “where will I fit it”?
You better be putting on your shoes and heading over to Punch after reading this article because I honestly can not wait to go back! If you’re looking for a great happy hour, fantastic food, great wine list, and a knowledgeable, friendly staff, then get over to Punch Bar & Grill! They will certainly be seeing more of me in the future!