T-swirl Crepe Hits Chinatown

And they're bringing their julienned carrots with them.

Japanese crepes (like pretty much everything Japanese, and particularly most convenience foods that are Japanese) are a little bit weird. I mean sure, the idea of a crepe sounds excellent. And the idea of a fast-casual restaurant serving up hot, fresh crepes sounds even more awesome. But then you get to T-swirl (which opened just a few days ago in Chinatown and has already seen crowds big enough to scare away those not arriving precisely at 11am when it opens), and you look at the menu, and your very first thought is why are they putting boiled asparagus in my Thai chicken crepe? followed shortly by and why are there carrots in EVERYTHING?

Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t go. You should (particularly if you love carrots, and don’t mind waiting in line), but I’m just saying that you might want to temper your expectations. These are crepes the way Big Macs are cheeseburgers. They exhibit a full range of crepe-like characteristics. They are made with (some) things that crepes are traditionally made with (plus carrots). They even taste like crepes–particularly if you’ve never had a good one before, or have only seen crepes in pictures.

I’m not selling this very well, am I?

What I’m saying here is that T-swirl is a creperie the way Chipotle is a taqueria. It has taken a fairly simple and beloved concept (the crepe, not the burrito) and found a way to make it available to large audiences. They have a system down–the big griddles, the paper-thin crepes, a uniquely artful way of adding filler so that, when folded and rolled into a kind of many-layered cone, what you’re left with is a crepe acting like an ice cream cone where the ice cream is meat and lettuce and boiled egg and bacon and avocado (and carrots) or whatever else the corporate body behind T-swirl (which has locations all over NYC and now, you know, here) has decided ought to make up an Egg White Mushroom Truffle crepe or an Angus Short Rib crepe.

The menu is divided roughly in half, sweet-versus-savory, and the sweet versions are served like art objects–beautiful sculptures bursting with fresh fruit and chocolate pearls and custard cream, perfectly rolled and tucked into envelopes, allowing you to eat them walking. I dare you to walk into the place and NOT order something called the Chocolate Nut Party, even if it’s just for laughs. But the mango and raspberry version is actually delicious (the sweet crepe batter being far more suited to the dessert-y crepes), as is the strawberry-banana. The azuki bean with matcha suffers from the matcha ice cream (which melts fast and makes the crepe soggy). And even the girl working behind the counter couldn’t tell us how an Okinawa hot dog (as served in crepe form) differed from a normal hot dog (as served in crepe form) except that maybe the Okinawa hot dog came with lots of carrots (also, according to the menu, “corns” which is just fantastic).

But I digress… There’s a part of me that loves T-swirl simply for existing. For being a place where, should the urge for a hand-held crepe-cone full of short rib, lettuce and green beans strike me, I can score such a delight for under ten bucks. It’s an approachable room, with a friendly staff and lines that occasionally stretch out the door and a beautiful brand aesthetic. But I’m not sure I’m in much of a hurry to go back.

Though that could be because I’m really just not that crazy about raw carrots.

T-swirl Crepe [Official]