As 2016 came to an end, Michelin-starred Luksus shut its doors in the back room of Tørst (615 Manhattan Ave), adding to the pile of restaurant closings in our area. For a moment it seemed that Tørst would revert entirely to a Nordic beer bar with a few bites. But all hope is not lost, Chef Jesus “Chuy” Cervantes, who worked at Cosme before spending two years under Chef Burns at Luksus, was ready to over the food program at Tørst and bring it to the next level. A recent lunch—yes, Tørst is open for lunch—showed there are still many Nordic influences on the expanded menu along with some quite delectable bread, but now they also have excellent takes on regular bar food.
First, let’s start with the bread. It’s under the helm of Chef Max Blachman-Gentile, who is also previously of Luksus as well as Roberta’s and Emily. The Rugbrød aka Danish Rye Bread is sharing the spotlight with an oat-based bread made with Evil Twin Yin beer, the Danish flatbread Knaekbrød, and a Seaweed House Roll. Now, I know that that last one is a bit different, but it is definitely worth trying, partly because it comes with a fantastic country ham and pimento cheese spread. A simple tangy yogurt-whipped butter accompanies the other breads.
Besides the bread plates, small bites include olives, pickles, and roasted potato chips. Should you want some greens, they do have a couple of salads to choose from. The Gem Lettuce salad reminds me of a favorite dish at the Lower East Side’s Wildair. A small head of gem lettuce is slightly roasted before being covered with a creamy Castelvetrano olive-based dressing and given a little burst of umami from cured egg yolk shavings. Cured egg yolk is an age-old practice that transforms a regular yolk into a solid golden orb perfect for grating.
Sandwiches are the main draw of the menu for me. Chef Chuy, who hails from Texas, shows off his Mexican side with an impressive Black Bean Torta with authentic Oaxaca cheese and avocados, just like I had in Mexico. Meat-eaters do have a few other options. First is the burger, which may be one of the best burgers in the city. It’s “fast-food style” with classic yellow cheddar and chipotle mayo on a Martin’s roll. The “French Montana” is a short rib French dip with horseradish and Gruyere on a baguette. Lastly, the Tørst Hot Dog gives a little nod to the neighborhood by including Polish mustard and relish. All the sandwiches are $14 and under, and at lunch, come with a complimentary 8oz pour from a limited selection of beer.
A big difference between the lunchtime and dinner menus is a greater amount of “To Share” items at night. A dish that sparks my interest is the homage to buffalo wings: Crispy Chicken Skin with Chiraboga Bleu and Crystal Hot Sauce. There is also Pickled Mackerel with Smoked Trout Roe and the flatbread Knaekbrød; a beef tartare dish; Littleneck Clams with Broccoli Rabe; and Flæskesteg aka pork belly. The shared dishes range from $12- $18.
For sweets, there’s the personal chocolate babka and yogurt sorbet covered with caramelized whey. Whey is the liquid that separates out from your yogurt, but caramelizing makes it tastes like salted caramel with a little tang. For those missing Luksus and love all things Nordic, Chef Chuy is making a fabulous sorbet from sea buckthorn, which he swirls with the Mexican savory-sweet chile sauce, chamoy, for the perfect sweet-tart dish to end your meal with.
Tørst is located at 615 Manhattan Avenue. Food is available Sunday – Friday from 12 – 4PM and 5 – 11PM, and Saturday, from 12PM – 12AM. Brunch and late night service are coming soon.