People love to ask me what my favorite restaurant is, and it's a question I cannot answer. As a default, I used to say ABC Kitchen, which would actually have been in the running if I were to choose one upon which to award such laurels But then Chef Dan Kluger left that building, and while I'm sure it is still a a fine destination, some of its cache certainly ebbed upon his departure. So I eagerly, eagerly awaited him opening his solo venture. And then I waited some more. And some more, with the typical, inevitable New York-style delays and postponements, until finally in November it quietly swung open its doors.
Those doors are deceptively humble- there's really no evident signage, so it seems sort of clandestine and exclusive. They open into vast space, double-wide and two floors deep, taking advantage of what must be extremely expensive real estate. The decor is just as simple: pale exposed brick upon which are hung some scenic black-and-white farmscapes, which make the illuminated picture windows showcasing glowing masses of frondy greens that comprise the back wall an alluring detail.
number of dishes. And just because there is a celebration of produce here doesn't mean you can't find your fair share of decadence and substance. Our server recommended the baked ricotta and kabocha squash, gooey and sweet on thick slabs of grilled sourdough and a decidedly filling was to start. A bit of heft is given to an ample plate of scarlet and golden jewel-toned beets bedecked with chunky granola and interspersed with chewy nubs of sweet membrillo and tangy, crumbly ones of vivace cheese. The granola, fashioned from quinoa, has intermittent sparks of novel spices and shreds of various herbs making each bite its own little unique adventure. Brussels sprouts
escape from their usual accoutrements, glazed with honey-mustard and joined by crunchy bits of apple and smooth chunks of cool avocado. Leeks are woven into a raft fanned over with thinly sliced pears, toasted walnuts and subtly tangy vinaigrette of yogurt and sherry. The symbiosis of fresh sweetness, earthy allium, tang and crunch is masterful.
But we can't just eat vegetables, not here. I mean, you could, and quite well, and no-one would fault you, but Large Plates offer the same elements of ingenuity and playful flavor profiles, and frankly some of the most wonderful dishes. An innocuous-looking filet of halibut with braised mushrooms and chiles harbored an incredible punch of sumptuous umami, and more than just a hint of smokiness from the wood-burning grill that is used to cook a majority of the food here. It permeated the fish and fungus with its potent essence, seductively bound to the supple flakes of fish. The broth alone was spoon-worthy. From the wood-burning oven, on the other hand, came a hunk of roasted short ribs, less tender than those braised, but magnificently beefy and with a welcome bit of chew: the flavor of the meat is so pronouncedly bovine and hearty that the extra nanosecond of mastication gives you time to savor the excellent meat. It's nestled into buttery pureed potatoes, and for a spark of vibrancy, a sward of horseradish-spiked gremolata brightens the homey dish, cutting the richness with just a smidge of zestiness. There are three intriguing pastas as well, and novel pizzas such as one topped with Brussels and cheddar, or the Dates Pizza, a snacky devils-on-horseback version.
Dessert riff on classic American standards, from a chocolate "hostess cupcake" with tangerine sherbet and a baked apple pied up in puff pastry, to a that Dairy Queen phenom, the Blizzard. Rich with salty caramel and crunches of nutty toffee, it could be described as nothing short of delicious, but I suppose I prefer a cheffier dessert. All the sweets seem to rely more on nostalgia rather than the ingenuity found in the previous courses, which is absolutely the only thing I could even begin to whimper about throughout the entire evening. And as the menu changes so often anyways there are already some different selections currently that might have appealed to me more. In fact, I may have found my answer to that nagging question that started this post, after all.