No Ko

Try the East Village's other tiny, chef-driven restaurant

It's a bold move to serve pork buns just steps away from Momofuku. But Jehangir Mehta, a former Jean-Georges pastry chef, isn't aping the trendy East Village noodle bar. If anything, his year-old restaurant, Graffiti, has more in common with David Chang's other hotspot, Momofuku Ko, the toughest reservation in New York right now.

Like Ko, Graffiti's 20-seat dining room is tiny (the kitchen is even smaller, a case study in efficiency of space). And as at Ko, diners interact with the chef: Mehta often serves every course himself, then sticks around for a chat.

There are, however, two happy differences between the two restaurants: 1) You can get a table at Graffiti. 2) Dinner there won't break the bank. Graffiti's dishes are designed to be shared and cost $7, $12 and $15. Every bottle of wine is $25—no complicated decisions, no shocking bills.

And then there's the South Asian-influenced food: Pork buns are spiced with cinnamon and star anise and topped with apricot chutney. Velvety slices of scallop get zing from pickled ginger. Pork dumplings are served with a tomato-chile sauce and grapefruit confit, an Ayurvedic-inspired balance of sweet, sour, hot and cold that Mehta applies to every dish (even his desserts). Cocoaholics will love the hazelnut-chocolate-caviar cupcakes, but those with more curious palates should order the strawberries sautéed in truffle oil. Paired with almonds and black-pepper ice cream, it's a startlingly bold and delicious treat. Which, at Graffiti, is what it's all about.

Graffiti, 224 E. 10th St.; 212-677-0695 or graffitinyc.com