Tuesday, July 28, 2015
a Michelin star at his former
restaurant in Sheffield. There is definitely an old boys aesthetic inspiring the food and decor, but Atherton's talent lends modern and creative touches to the standards. It would be a very picky client who couldn't find something to delight upon the menu. And even before you have to choose anything, a piping hot loaf of mild sourdough, quartered, graces the table, good enough on its own but heavenly with lashings of a thick, buttermilk-whipped butter, pure and white and meltingly creamy.
And speaking of clubby, the cocktail list takes inspiration from that of the nighttime variety. Some have funny names and clever riffs on industry standards, but our neighbor's sported an unexpected garnish: two illuminated glow-sticks looping above, which definitely emphasizes a playfulness at hand. While the food is seriously good, Atherton is not taking himself or the rigors of fine dining too seriously.
Our young and dashing waiter was exceptionally attentive and charming, putting up with my friend's cheeky incessant banter with the grace of an old soul. The sommelier, commensurately helpful, conveyed his savvy with a crisp accent to assist us in finding a brisk Gruner that paired marvelously with our first plate. Scallops and cauliflower, both richly bronzed in a nutty brown
butter laden with bright capers and golden raisins came three to the plate, making it ample enough to share a bite without compromise. A spring leaf salad (although we are headstrong
into summer) was almost sizable enough to halve, but the tasty tumble of greens with striking ribbons of stripey carrot ribbons and toothsome raw artichoke made itself easy to finish on my own, in its lightly lively in its citrus dressing.
The menu rallies between buoyantly playful and sophisticatedly modernist. An "old fashioned bucket of oysters, bits and bobs" is, in actuality, an architecturally striking seafood tower, much more elegant than its description. There is a mac and cheese, but here it's no side-dish noodle: fortified with tender, slow-cooked ox cheek and wild mushrooms, it is a substantial entree. Dover sole, on the other hand, was the classic rendition. A special that night, the delicate fish was deboned a table and anointed with a luscious brown butter and more capers. But at $54, it had better be good, right? Other than lavishly sauced, it is served unadorned, so although there are no side dishes listed on the menu, our waiter happily offered a selection of roasted vegetables, haricot verts or two different potato preparations, upon request. I opted for the vegetables (I suppose I was expecting a standard summer array of eggplant and zucchini), but instead what
arrived was fennel, onions and potatoes, which I love but was admittedly not expecting. I also felt like had I wanted potatoes, the two other options would've sufficed, so I felt a little force-potatoed. But the fennel and onions were caramelized to a tender sweetness, and the little knobs of potato deliciously waxy and dense, so not a huge issue. Additionally, my seared halibut had a bounty of produce: a crown of bristly little greens, carrots both roasted and pureed, and morsels of delicate chanterelles. It also had an abundance of milky pink peppercorn sauce. Both of these things made fine accompaniments with the impeccably fresh, tasty filet, but the flavors fought one another, making little sense in composition. There was enough fish to go around, however, alternating bites daubed in sauce and ones paired with vegetation. Looking at the bright side, it was like having two dishes in one.
Finishing things off, my tablemate was jonesing for the pistachio souffle, but our meal had been a lengthy one already, and that guy required another twenty minutes, as souffles do, from ordering, so we opted for the "strawberries and cream", which definitely showcased pastry chef's Sebastian Rouxel's roots from the French Laundry. It was a novel composition on the plate, a trompe d'oeil custard slicked over with a glossy strawberry aspiclooked like a cool fruity soup until your spoon broke its surface, revealing the creamy vanilla custard beneath. An olive oil cake, light yet firm, soaked up the juices of a pert verjus sorbet, lip-smackingly tart and vibrant with prime summer berries. Another sweet arrives before the check: a quaint tin box filled with various confections. A plush, sticky strawberry marshmallow, crisp and melting
dark chocolate covered toffee, and (my favorite) a burnt sugar caramel, sweet and toasty with the perfect level of chewiness. They won't pull your teeth out but definitely offer up a bit of resistance. At least they won't pull out good, strong American teeth. Those Brits, on the other hand.....
5 Madison Avenue (east of Madison Square Park at 24th street)
Posted by webdebnyc at 4:01 PM