Sun, 8am-11:30am; Mon, 7am-10:30am; Tue-Fri, 7am-10:30am and 5:30pm-10:30pm; Sat, 8am-11:30am and 5:30pm-10:30pm
1, 2, 3 at Chambers St.; A, C at Chambers St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Barclay St. to Canal St., Bowery to West St.
The food at Jehangir Mehta's sophomore effort isn't quite as kooky as at his first place, the even tinier Graffiti, but there's plenty about it to keep taste buds intrigued. The most oddball of the dishes is also one of the best: raw oysters topped with icy grapefruit granita and strawberry Pop Rocks -- the flavors work and the dish is just as delightful to behold as it is to eat. Shaved foie gras spread over toast with raspberry compote is a fun play on PB&J, but the brownish dish lacks any visual flair. Crab and truffle "pizza" atop a quartered square of puff pastry is good enough but seems like some kind of ten-minute canapé borrowed from food TV. Meanwhile, cinnamon tomato eggs en cocotte might be comfort food somewhere in the world, but to an American palate the sweetness of the dish proves jarring. Still, this is small plates, so there's time to redeem the meal: tenderly seared shrimp skewers in a vaguely Indian onion-seed preparation with cleverly shaved strands of cucumber resembling green linguine and, from the unnecessarily separate vegetarian menu, "chaat" vegetable dumplings, sprinkled with crunchy noodles. However, restaurant dining is typically a trifecta of food, ambience and service, and unfortunately for the playful food and warm, botanical-motif space, the small niceties are not up to par: paper menus are stained and wrinkled, stools are high and not particularly comfortable, and in our experience, anyway, the customer, whose (very good, creamy and lightly spicy) coconut fizz cocktail is forgotten for 30 minutes, is not always right. Still, this element is the easiest to correct. Let's hope Mehtaphor does just that.