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Wallflower – LOST GEM

Wallflower – LOST GEM

235 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10014
wallflowernyc.com

Wallflowers are shy, standing on the outskirts of the crowd, far away from the pulsing core. Those curious extroverts who take a chance on engaging a wallflower often find gems full of life and interesting quirks behind the wallflower’s timid exterior. That is exactly what diners experience when they gamble on entering 235 West 12th Street.

“Half restaurant, half cocktail bar,” Wallflower serves elegant dishes reflecting the French countryside. Rabbit-trumpet royal terrines with celery root remoulade, country pâté with pickled vegetables, and an assortment of fine cheeses all adorn the a la carte menu. Despite the high quality fare crafted by chef Sahara Uy, co-owner and head bartender Xavier Herit assured me that at Wallflower they are “the opposite of pretension and being fancy.” There is no “bling bling,” just good food and good drinks.

Xavier was born in France, where he grew up in a suburb of Paris. He entered the food industry at the age of sixteen, and after attending restaurant school, took naturally to the art of bartending (after burning a few chickens, he knew cooking was not his forte). He spent some time traveling around Europe, studying the culinary patterns of various countries, and then began working at Paris’s renowned Hotel Plaza Athénée, celebrated for its unique alcoholic beverages. When the hotel’s chef decided to open a restaurant in New York, he offered Xavier a position as a mixologist, carrying Xavier across the Atlantic to Manhattan, where he has been ever since.

When I first walked into Wallflower, where Xavier signed on as a partner in 2013, he was overflowing with enthusiasm, having just finished a deal to bring a brand new French wine to the Wallflower cellar. While mixing a selection of cocktails, he giddily buzzed about how Wallflower would be the first bar in New York to carry the product. Watching Xavier mix the drinks, I could not help but notice his passion for his job. He shared that “in this business, if you are not excited about what you do, people see it.”

Xavier’s love for his craft showed in the attention to detail he put into each drink. First, the Cornelia, a Mexican influenced mix consisting of Wallflower’s own corn puree, mezcal, and tequila, garnished with fresh basil oil, pressed in the kitchen. Next, he made the No Bananas Today – named mockingly in honor of Billy Jones’s 1923 song about the Brazilian banana shortage. The drink is a play on a banana daiquiri, but the impressive ingredients make it more complex: fragrant Jamaican rum, Brazilian crème du banane, a second rum aged over twelve years, and a house-made syrup constructed from a sugar cane juice derivative. “If you don’t like bananas, don’t drink this cocktail,” quipped Xavier. Lastly, he created the “spiritful” Black Tie, blending Italian Cynar infused with coffee beans, a strong bourbon, and a Wallflower original maple syrup. Xavier explained that by making many of his own ingredients, he can better control the flavor profile of his beverages.

As I rounded the bar and dining room, delighting in the fresh cut flowers and country chic settings, I concluded that the establishment was surely a wallflower worth approaching. Xavier smiled and noted playfully, “It’s the concentrate of many good things in a seventy-five square-foot space.”

Be sure to also check out Wallflower’s sister restaurant, The Eddy.