James Harden’s Thirteen cafe in Midtown a shock strike

Merna Delaurentis

I want I experienced a selfie of my face when the server at 13, basketball star James Harden’s Midtown cafe, advised me they experienced just sold the last portion of fried lasagna. It fell. I was stricken. The imp in me had appeared ahead to checking out this cheeky dish […]

I want I experienced a selfie of my face when the server at 13, basketball star James Harden’s Midtown cafe, advised me they experienced just sold the last portion of fried lasagna.

It fell. I was stricken.

The imp in me had appeared ahead to checking out this cheeky dish considering that chef Tobias Dorzon’s menu had dropped in the operate-up to the restaurant’s opening.

In photographs, Dorzon wore the sort of mischievous, figuring out smile that designed me think he could bring off this jokey little bit of rococo. And if not? At the extremely least, it would make good copy.

In its place I had to make do with a different puckish dish that may possibly check the mettle of the Maryland native: Loaded Previous Bay Crab Fries showered with bits of crab meat and a crab product.

Cilantro lime lamb chops phone to intellect chimichurri.

Alison Cook dinner / Team

It seemed a obstacle on the get of fried lasagna simply because I am not a admirer of loaded fries. To me, saddling nicely-executed hand-slice french-fried potatoes with a whole lot of sauce and cheese glop and protein is a sacrilege.

So I wish I experienced one more selfie of my encounter as I dove in for my very first bites, swishing the bronzy, Old Bay-dusted potato sticks close to in the spicy cream and swiping up as many snowy nuggets of crab meat as I could.

They had been absurdly scrumptious. The textures sang, the crisp potato edges from the silky crab and sauce. The crimson-peppery bounce of Previous Bay seasoning, with its hints of cinnamon and ginger, cut through the richness, summoning up Dorzon’s Maryland roots as the son of a Liberian immigrant dad who ran a West African cafe in Washington, D.C.

Dorzon went from a stint in the NFL to turn out to be a non-public chef for a roster of major-league football and basketball stars. He cooks with a lavish contact that incorporates heaps of seafood and notes of neo-soul, including the sort of in excess of-the-major tips that have put places these types of as the Turkey Leg Hut on the map.

13 opened at the worst time possible. Not even a 7 days immediately after the restaurant’s big general public-relations force in early January arrived news that Harden would be traded to the Brooklyn Nets, at his ask for. The recriminations amid local sporting activities fans had been so fierce for a whilst that I wondered if the cafe would make a go of it — especially considering the fact that the pandemic was putting a damper on business enterprise.

Six months later on, it is booked reliable a number of months out. When I tried to discover a desk on the web for a Tuesday evening, usually a gradual a person for dining places, very little confirmed up. When I identified as to double-test, thinking maybe the on the web method was wonky, a hostess advised me they experienced practically nothing until finally the initial week of August.

“I guess I’ll see you next month, then,” I joked. But she was swift to recommend the possibility of snagging a bar seat in the eating space on a first-appear basis, though she could not promise we’d get fortunate.

We did. From the moment we entered the darkened foyer from the vibrant glare of a Midtown sunset — reservationless, unsure of how we’d be gained or no matter whether we’d even get a seat — the Thirteen staff extended a cordiality and heat that manufactured the evening a satisfaction. They must bottle that stuff.

At Thirteen by James Harden, delectable sweet potatoes with marshmallow brûlée prove utterly dessert-worthy.

At Thirteen by James Harden, delectable sweet potatoes with marshmallow brûlée show utterly dessert-deserving.

Alison Cook dinner / Team

Tables had been nicely spaced out in the eating area, which has a nightclub truly feel with its undulant swoops of neon, its banquettes and velveted armchairs and Artwork Deco light fixtures.

The loaded crab fries ended up these a hit, we figured crab cakes in a Maryland design (tall, baseball-sized, bound with just a couple bread crumbs) would be a natural, much too. And they could possibly have been, had the crab been fresher. It was jarring to have one crab dish appear out spanking contemporary and a different arrive about a day way too late in its lifestyle.

But a trio of lamb chops glazed with lime and cilantro — practically a chimichurri outcome — was excellent. So was a aspect of collard greens larded with hunks of smoked turkey, and deeply roasty sweet potatoes with a marshmallow roof ended up superior sufficient to take in for dessert.

There’s a Sunday brunch that’s initial arrive, to start with served, and I’m betting that is enjoyable, too.

What designed every thing click was a smartly edited wine listing featuring critical by-the-glass choices: some of them a minor expensive (and well worth it), some quite acceptable. The range is the function of marketing consultant Ashley Havens, who is effective for the posh Oak Home at Tilman Fertitta’s Write-up Oak Lodge at Uptown Houston.

Baby Gem Caesar with fried capers and soft-boiled egg at Thirteen in Midtown

Baby Gem Caesar with fried capers and soft-boiled egg at 13 in Midtown

Alison Cook dinner / Personnel

She was on the flooring the night I frequented, generating the rounds of tables and fantastic ideas. I was joyful with my splurgy $16 glass of white Burgundy as I devoured people loaded crab fries, but Havens wanted us to consider a taste of a person of these English sparkling whites that can give champagne a run for the dollars.

It was the excellent choice, and affordable.

As we left, a staffer questioned if we needed a peek at the separate bar and hookah lounge on the other aspect of the developing. Of course we did. The door opened to a properly-dressed group — there is a no-fooling-all over costume code for each lounge and cafe — amid a clamor of bumping music and chatter and aromatic smoke that felt like a occasion was likely on.

It was, of system. My predictions of doom for Mr. Harden’s enterprise had been, as they say, significantly exaggerated.

alison.prepare [email protected]

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