Saturday, November 14, 2015


Sometimes a stint of mediocre restaurants befalls me such that I start to question my palate and passion.  And then I hit a place like Kat and Theo that completely renews my spirit.  Perhaps nothing being done here at this new American Chelsea nook that is so wildly innovative or provocative, but it is attractive and comfortable in decor, swift and pleasant of service, and consistently, remarkably delicious in cuisine.  It is actually strikingly similar to Black Barn, the previous restaurant I reported on, but on a smaller scale, and superior on most all counts.  Rustic, heavy wooden beams, again,  criss-cross
 the ceiling over walls of crumbling, uneven exposed brick.  Even the tabletops are striking: imported wood is oxidized to a pewter hue striated with black lines, and deep purple velvet covers comfortably plush banquettes, their color mollified by flickery shadows cast from a real, live fireplace we were lucky enough to snuggle up right next to.

The menu is not too big, not too small- just Goldilocks-right.   And it is formatted as such that you can sort of make of it what you will.  I chose a side as a starter, or a hodge-podge of small plates could make up your meal.  Certainly, regardless of your strategy, the charred octopus needs to be a component one way or another.  Deliciously bacony tentacles nuzzle into a puree of gigante beans, a few of which are left whole, but these are undercooked and chalky, performing only as leguminous decor rather something actually edible.  But that's okay: you'll
 be fully under the spell of the tender cephalopod, glazed in orange and oregano down to its crispy edges.  The cauliflower side that I upgraded to begin with is a winner as well, its florets roasted into submission and mounded under a sweetly tangy fig compote, a modern American take on the Sicilian classic.

Only open for months, the aggressively seasonal menu has already morphed through several iterations, the main dishes we tried cycled out in favor of new creations.  Thus it goes when your chef (Paras Shah) honed his craft at El Bulli, Per Se and Momofuku: good things will evolve from the  menu but there will be more good things to replace them.    As for the skate, however, it will be missed.  That wing was perfectly crisped, just accentuating the tender filaments of the fish with a delicate crust
 without overcoming them.  Dark leaves of sturdy kale lay gently across the top, anchored by toasted hazelnuts.  A sauce ahlinho beneath was viscous enough not to sog the skate, although we never got a very explanation of what this mysteriously delicious sauce is (although garlic and saffron were notable components, our waiter said it translated directly as "sauce", which is just.... not accurate).  But no harm no foul- it was just another attribute of the wildly successful dish.  So too was the halibut in bouillabaise, thickened with a creamy celery root puree and dotted with plump mussels.  Two ravioli crowned the affair, which seemed superfluous and sort of out
of place, but they cached the world's silkiest filet of halibut, pristine and snowy white, almost indecent in its moistness.   Veggies are a little scant in the main dishes, so I was happy to have commandeered a side of charred bitter greens,
although they were more braised than charred,
cooked down and stewy, with kicky flecks of chili much like calalloo.

Serena Chow is in charge of the sweet stuff, from which we settled on a concord grape panna cotta, after much wrangling between a chocolate mousse with lavender and lemon curd and a much-lauded carrot cake with white chocolate and espresso, all of which I'm sure were marvelous if our final choice was any parameter.   The grapes came in the form of an intensely flavored sorbet, perched over delicate panna cotta glazed with a a gently earthy fennel gelee, separating the sweetness from the tartness until a spoon broke its glossy surface, impaled with  crunchy shards of delicate maple brittle.  No decaf is on hand, but Toby's Estate provides their fine coffee to accompany if you can handle the buzz,  along with an assortment of teas and digestifs to choose from.  For once, I was okay with post-prandial caffeinated joe- I was happy to stay awake a little longer, ruminating on the delicacies of Kat and Theo. 

5 W 21st St
New York ,  NY  10010
+ 1-212-380-1950

No comments:

Post a Comment