Restaurant Review: Franchia

12 Park Avenue
(between 34th Street and 35th Street)
Murray Hill, Manhattan

Vegiboys Rating (3/4)

Franchia markets itself as a teahouse, but this Murray Hill oasis shouldn’t be confused for a café. The full-service restaurant offers one of the most unique atmospheres of the restaurants we’ve visited, and the service among the most refined. As the sister restaurant to HanGawi, the space shares a similar pan-Asian menu, feel, and price point (as well as the same philosophy of casual dining in an inspiring space).

The dining room is a multi-leveled design, with three tiers: street level has a somewhat brighter space and includes a small shop, the second and third tiers are darker with carved woodwork features and exposure to an intricately painted ceiling. Each table is equipped with a server call button; a brilliant feature that we’d like to see rolled out to all of the NYC dining world – thanks to that easy piece of technology, service was very attentive, but not at all overbearing. Our server was very receptive to hand-holding; being our first time at Franchia, he guided us through their offerings, and made suggestions for getting the best sense of their kitchen.

We chose the prix fixe, which included a tea, a soup or salad, an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert for each of us. Both Brian and I also requested their mojito soju. The mojito was sweet and smooth, but without a lot of interest to it. We tried two teas: the schisandra chinesis herbal fruit tea was sweet and fruity, and a strong ginger tea gave a lot of pleasant kick. Both teas were superb.

We tried the soup of the day (a seaweed-filled potion that I enjoyed, but Brian found less pleasant) which had good flavors appropriate for the start of an Asian-themed meal. An avocado and asparagus salad also had a good taste, though not anything that stood out in the dish.

We received two appetizers split between us; the long appetizer plates had crispy scallion pancakes and vermicelli spring rolls with a mango citron sauce separated by an edible carved cucumber. A great presentation, and all tasty, but once again, nothing wowed us.

Our entrées arrived in a beautiful presentation. The stone bowl vegetarian duck with rice came in a deep, sizzling mortar that was fun to receive. The bowl included a faux-meat that tasted exactly like ham (despite its designation as duck) and a nice variety of other additions (from crispy veggies, asparagus, and arame), but the crisp rice stuck to the sides of the stone bowl was the highlight of the dish for us. Brian’s Pad Thai noodles unfortunately lacked much taste. The noodles were intermixed with a nice medley of fresh vegetables, but the dish simply didn’t impress. A small plate of kimchi was a nice addition visually, but with all the elements involved in the meal already and without a particularly unique or outstanding flavor, it was rather lost in the mix.

Something we did not try, but that we noticed on the menu (and appreciated as an option) was a range of vegan sushi.

A finale of chocolate soy ice cream, served on a banana leaf with a dusting of almond, only furthered our impression of the meal; impressive presentation, but the tastes simply did not match up to the fanfare of the venue (the flavor was obviously non-dairy with no compensation made for the want of creaminess). Nothing was particularly bad, but similar mediocrity can be achieved for a lower price elsewhere. At $49 each in total, the food simply could not equal all other aspects of the experience (including its price).

Food (2.5/4)
Atmosphere & Service
Value (2/4)

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