Dark, downstairs and just a bit dungeon-feeling — that is how I like my lounges to be. Shalel Lounge fulfills all those characteristics without feeling the least bit shady.
Located a few blocks away from Lincoln Center, Shalel is the type of place that would easily go unnoticed if you weren’t expressly looking for it. Luckily, I have some cool friends (shout out to Simon and Kristi!) who help me discover cool joints!
Shalel Lounge is just off the corner of 70th and Columbus Ave., and you’ll miss it completely if you don’t see their glass pedestal menu and the staircase banister leading into the entryway.
Once inside, it’s all candlelit, soft yellow light, brick arches and tassel-cushioned Moroccan-style benches with low tables. After my dirty candle discovery I wasn’t too happy to see toxic wax being burnt, but I figured I’d make a concession this one time.
It’s completely dark in here, so if you want to get a good look at the menu, you’ll have to either ask them for a brighter candle (they brought a long candlestick for us after we asked), which is kind of unwieldy. But it does force you to focus on dinner and your dinner mates, because using a smartphone here is highly noticeable and so discourages anyone obsessively (and meaninglessly) checking their phone for silly insta or snapchat notifications.
There are recessed, semi-private dining “cubbies” with booth seating further into the restaurant. Shalel is surprisingly large, and towards the back there is a shallow, stone-framed pool with fresh rose petals strewn hither and dither. Now, that’s quite a bit of maintenance!
The staff here is pretty direct — they take your order, bring out your food, and maybe check on you once during the meal. Nothing special.
Potato Gnocchi – $16.00
This dish must be veganized. Please tell your server upon ordering.
Gnocchi is quite a rare treat for me, since it’s hardly ever vegan. This dish reminded me very much of the one I had at Piccolo Cafe. The gnocchi was pillowy and chewy in a satisfying way. The sauce was balanced and the mushrooms were decently fried.
I enjoyed the dish a lot, but for 16 bucks, it’s simply too much for too little food. I’d say another half portion, at least, would bring it up to normal standard. Granted, it is a “lounge” and not a certifiable restaurant, but I do expect to get the most bang for my buck. Not here, though.
One line rhyme-mary:
Great place for a date but not a full plate.