Celsius — Citi Pond at Bryant Park

Today’s review takes us to Celsius, the restaurant by the Bryant Park ice-skating rink.  As many of your probably know, you can go ice-skating during the winter months at “Citi Pond at Bryant Park“.  Celsius is a pop-up restaurant just off of the ice-skating rink, where you can get lunch, dinner, or drinks in a nicely heated area while watching the much colder ice skaters below.  The menu was surprisingly vegetarian-friendly, but the food itself was rather disappointing.  The vegetarian starters included a mezze plate and steamed vegetable dumplings, as well as stuffed artichokes, which you could get without bacon (hey! that’s the name of the blog!).  There were some salads as well, including a beet and goat cheese salad; it looks beets are in this year.  There was a mac & cheese entree, and several interesting vegetarian sides, including fried cauliflower, roasted pumpkin, and roasted Brussels sprouts.  I got the vegetarian dumplings to start, and the mac and cheese as my entree, with a side of cauliflower.

The dumplings were the least interesting, in terms of presentation.  I have to say, I had high hopes for this meal when I ordered.  But the dumplings were bland, and I would not be surprised if they were frozen.  The wrap-to-filling ratio was way off — the dumplings were probably half wrapper, if not more — and the filling itself was tasteless. 

The fried cauliflower was much better.  It tasted just like you’d expect — cauliflower, lightly fried.  There was just a bit of sea salt to enhance the flavor. All in all, this was probably the best part of the meal.

I had high hopes for the mac and cheese, but it was disappointing.  It looked quite good, as you can probably tell from this picture, but it sort of separated into two parts when I went to eat it:  the crispy top layer, and a separate “underneath” layer of noodles and cheese underneath.  I got the impression that the mac and cheese was designed to look like it was freshly made with a layer of cheese sprinkled on top, rather than actually being made that way.  The crunchy top layer was stiff and a little brittle, but the “innards” were okay.

Dessert was a pumpkin tart with sea salt caramel gelato.  The gelato was nice, but again, I got the impression that the tart had been sitting around for a while before getting microwaved a few moments before we ordered.  The tart also had a weird texture; the pumpkin was kind of bland so it was hard to know when the crust ended and the pumpkin began.

All in all, I was unimpressed with Celsius.  The menu looked really interesting, with lots of appetizers and sides that were both vegetarian-friendly and more imaginative than the run-of-the-mill options you find at most restaurants.  But I think they bit of more than they could handle.  I assume that a pop-up restaurant doesn’t have the full range of capabilities that a regular restaurant would, and this probably led them to skimp on quality.  They probably would have been better off aiming their sights a little lower.

I’m going to categorize Celsius as a “casual restaurant” and not give it a star rating.  I would say, though, that if you can avoid Celsius, you probably should.  It’s not terrible by any stretch, but there are plenty of other options in and around Bryant Park.  Especially during the holiday season, you can get quick takeout from little stalls, or go to a real restaurant (the Bryant Park Grill) for a sit down meal.  I’d maybe come back to Celsius for a drink and the mezze plate, but that’s about it.

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