Friday, July 20, 2012

Dinner | Dovetail

Lisa and I had dinner last week at Chef John Fraser's Dovetail of the Upper West Side. It was a dinner inspired by a very generous Gilt City deal offered to its members a couple weeks prior -- a four-course dinner (appetizer, vegetable, main course, and dessert) with reserve wine pairings along with an exclusive kitchen tour offered at 40% off original price ($105 per person compared to the original $175). I had been there three years ago for an impromptu solo lunch for Restaurant Week (a three-course meal there for $24.07 wasn't too shabby at all!). Instead of the typical watered down courses that result from the guise of Restaurant Week (and usually, accompanying unattentive, unfriendly service), I remember how much I was impressed at the high quality of dishes that came from the kitchen and onto my table for lunch -- it was really amazing, so much so that if I had gone back with no knowledge of the menu, I'm certain I would not be to discern that my afternoon meal had come from the Restaurant Week prix fixe menu. That's when you know a restaurant is a quality one -- when they "make it work" without compromising quality, craft, and taste. Ever since, I'd been yearning to go back to see what the dinner scene would be like and how the four-course prixe fixe would fare.

Here's another restaurant whose name is intriguing to the my inner word nerd -- dovetail, to fit together easily -- to go alongside scarpetta, alinea, recette, il pittore, and jewel bako. My philosophy is that if a chef/kitchen/restaurant puts as much thought into its moniker as it does into its cuisine and menu, there's a lot to be said there. It means they're committed to the entire dining experience, and that to me, sets one restaurant apart from the rest.

It's so interesting how restaurants change from the afternoon into the evening, given that none of the décor has changed, only the ambient lighting and any natural light that trickles through the windows (that is, if there are). It had garnered a contemporary yet comfortably warm dining room where the acoustics are well balanced and the party you're with can hear every word you utter. The lighting wasn't too "romantic" either, which I give props for because I think dimmed lighting is overrated. I like to see my food (as does my DSLR's lens, haha), thank you very much! :P

Other side of the dining room at Dovetail.

Dovetail offers "contemporary American cuisine and creative use of seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients" by way of Chef John Fraser. He began his career in Los Angeles followed by some time over at The French Laundry under the mentorship of Chef Thomas Keller, which lead him to explore global haute cuisine in Paris in the kitchens of Taillevent and Maison Blanche. Chef Fraser finally arrived to New York, he opened a Greek trattoria called Snack Taverna, and two years later wound up at Compass. Eventually, in 2007, he opened Dovetail for which he has received three stars from former New York Times restaurant critic, Frank Bruni as well as one star from the revered Michelin guide.

An amuse-bouche courtesy of Dovetail's kitchen started off our dinner -- a grapefruit panna cotta with a champagne gélee and black caviar. The panna cotta was a little too tart for our liking, but the sweetness from the gélee and and the brinyness from the caviar were able to keep it a bit grounded.

Shortly after, we were given a bread vessel (not sure what else to call it, haha) with cornbread and multigrain crackers. Both were light on the stomach while satisfying our initial cravings for something salty.

Alongside the bread were these miniature fried rice balls topped with truffle aioli. These delectable bites left us wishing for more. We could have eaten about twenty of these each, not at all becoming sick of them. They were the perfect mix of fried goodness, truffled earthiness, and creaminess.

Another amuse-bouche followed -- house-smoked trout with caviar and horseradish buttermilk sauce. This was one of those combinations which really needed to be eaten together, no part of any ingredient left behind. The trout, which actually tasted salmon more than anything, was on the fishier side (it being smoked and all), but the horseradish buttermilk sauce clouded its pungency nicely and the pearls of caviar (when they could be popped -- those little suckers had a tough membrane for some reason) helped, too.

As my first course, I had the squid a la plancha (i.e., grilled squid) with snow peas, black garlic, and strawberry-rhubarb jam. Surprisingly enough, I don't believe I've consciously had rhubarb before so this was a first for me. The "red celery" that had seemed so foreign to me turned out a wonderful flavor pairing with the charred pieces of squid and the sweet strawberries. The squid itself had a favorably chewy consistency, making it easy to digest. I've had my fair share of squid, but I don't believe I've ever had it with an enhanced sweetness as it was done here. Good stuff!

Lisa was a tad bit more adventurous and instead had the rabbit and foie gras terrine with terrine with fennel mostarda, romaine, and breakfast radish. We're both clearly fans of foie gras, but when it comes to rabbit, it's a territory that had gone unexplored by Lisa and one to which I've become very averse. It's wayyy too gamy for me, but Lisa, given her affinity for liver patés and game, wanted to give it a try. I told her it'd probably be the best time to try it as it's mixed in with foie gras, so it'll soften the taste a little so she could get acquainted with it without becoming too overwhelmed. Honestly, I was concerned because when the dish arrived, it didn't come with the usual toasted brioche -- it was just straight-up terrine. Fortunately for Lisa, she really enjoyed it and could finally say that she did in fact like rabbit. The accompanying ingredients on the plate went really well with it as well.

Wine pairing-wise,we had the same pairings regardless of our course choices. We started off with {3} a multi-vintage white sparkling wine (a champagne blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, and meunier) from Lombardy, Italy produced by Quattro Mani. {2} Next came a 2010 riesling from Rheingau, Germany produced by Rüdesheimer Klosterlay of Josef Leitz designated as Kabinett for our first course. {1} Then for the second course, we were given a 2008 chardonnay from the appelation Chablis of Burgundy, France produced by Château de Béru. {not pictured, see third course for detail} Lastly, for the third course, we received a bordeaux blend of merlot and cabernet franc from the appellation of Canon Fronsac of Bordeaux, France produced by Château Lafond.

The Italian sparkling wine (not a prosecco!) was super refreshing and had a little residual sugar on the palate -- crisp and bubbly with a tinge of sweet (not super dry) was the perfect way to start -- Lisa's favorite of the evening. The next (my favorite) was one of the best riesling's I've ever had -- it had the perfect balance of depth and sweetness (pretty semi-dry) where it didn't cloud the food with which it was paired with too much. I usually run into the problem where the riesling by the glass is either too sweet or way too dry (same issue with sparkling wines). Dovetail was able to find a happy medium for these two very different wines, and our first two courses were better for it.

Another reason why Dovetail is awesome -- because I had run into serious choice paralysis with deciding on my first course (seems to be a recurring theme for me -- oh Western problems, hahaha), our captain quickly solved this for me by letting me choose my second course from the appetizer section of the menu instead of the designated vegetable section. I shamelessly went with veal sweetbreads with celery, cherries, and hazelnuts. Thank you, Dovetail, for letting me break the rules of dining etiquette. The cut of sweetbread made it easy to slice into bite-sized pieces for sweeping up the au jus mixed with the caramelized cherries. The savory and fatty characteristics of the sweetbread were countered by the warm and tart cherries, the nuttiness from the hazelnuts, and the green crisp crunch from the celery. Simplicity in ingredient choice matched with the thorough understanding of interplaying flavors is undoubtedly Dovetail's strong suit.

Lisa, who didn't deviate from the rules as I did, had the ricotta gnudi with truffles, broccoli, and parsley as her vegetable course. These little balls of ricotta gnocchi (gnudi meaning nude gnocchi) were super creamy and melted against the warmth of our palates, oozing with glorious truffled goodness. The summer veggies brought the gnudi back down to earth (pun intended!) -- fresh, juicy, and delicately crunchy. Please don't be fooled by the little beauts -- they're quite rich and heavy, so tread with caution. You'll be fuller than you thought before the third course arrives!

As for the wine pairing, the chardonnay wasn't necessarily noteworthy -- it didn't have the same flavor profile effect as did the first two for Lisa or myself, more on the blander side. Definitely tasted better with the above two courses.

For my main course, I had the aged sirloin with beef cheek lasagna and king trumpet mushrooms. Thumbs up on the sirloin (aged to a marbled perfection) and the lovely king trumpets, not so much for the beef cheek lasagna, which could've done without the tomato-and-cheese-lasagna-part. It was a little too cheesy and heavy for me, especially with the beef cheek being on the hearty side of things like short rib meat.The tomato-and-cheese was more distracting than anything, detracting from the flavors of the beef, au jus, and mushrooms which were not at all Italian-pasta-like in that regard. Perhaps if the beef cheek was served just braised off to the side with mushrooms or something, then it would have appeared more cohesive. Nevertheless, the simplicity in the preparation of the aged sirloin in and of itself was what made it so delicious, so I'm still glad I went this route with my third course.

Lisa had the pistachio-crusted duck with cauliflower, chai curry spice, and wineberries. There was certainly a lot going on with this dish, but one thing was for sure -- the duck itself was super tender at medium rare with a nice textural contrast and flavor complement from the pistachios. The cauliflower was interesting (with South Asian influences), and the tartness from the wineberries gave everything a fruity undertone. I felt the portion of duck was pretty fair and generous. Overall, the duck is a main course to consider!

A close up of the cute little side dish Lisa prepared for me so I could try her dish.

Lisa with her third course and our fourth wine pairing, the bordeaux blend of merlot and cabernet franc. We both enjoyed this red with our meat-centric dishes, as it was a nice balance of the two different grapes that created a soft, velvety taste without being too tannic. A great red overall.

For a palate cleanser, we were given a cucumber and lime sorbet. Very tart and refreshing in an odd way -- but nevertheless, it did the trick.

For tea, I got a cup of the Wood Dragon oolong from Nantou County, Taiwan, and Lisa got the Genmaicha green tea from Shizuoka, Japan -- both were soothing digestifs.

For the last course, dessert, I had the sour cherry consommé with toasted rice créme brûlèe, ginger, and black sesame. Undoubtedly Asian-inspired flavors, the tartness of the cherry consommé blended well with the savory aspects of the rest of the dessert's components. Very much like a créme brûlèe with a berry drizzle, only reversed. The ginger was not as subtle as I anticipated but somehow it worked well.

Lisa went with the milk chocolate gianduja crémeux with strawberries, hazelnuts, and olive oil ice cream, a lovely combination of sweet, tart, nutty, and savory at a chilled temperature. As I'm more of a dark chocolate person, I felt the milk chocolate was a little overpowering sweetness-wise, but I imagine for lovers of milk chocolate, there are no reservations with this dessert course. The strawberries did well to soften the sweetness on the palate. For those who like simple desserts, this is the way to go.

To conclude our meal, we had some mignardises, which included a peanut butter and jelly macaron, a blueberry milk chocolate truffle, salted brownie, and a lychee pâté de fruit with the last two being our favorites.

Findings: Overall, our dining experience at Dovetail was very solid. All of our course choices were great, and there wasn't any one dish that we didn't enjoy -- a feat that is pretty hard to accomplish with us. I definitely see two Michelin star potential here with Chef John Fraser, especially given the beautiful execution of the dishes both in flavor and presentation. You really feel comfortable dining there with the service being attentive while knowing when to leave its patrons be. Another noteworthy aspect of our experience was the wine pairings -- they worked out really well with our menu choices, and that in and of itself makes it almost imperative to return for next season's menu change. All in all, Dovetail makes for a restaurant where you're guaranteed to have simply delicious food, wonderful pairings, and lovely service.

Price point: $105 per person for a four-course prix fixe dinner via Gilt City, not including gratuity.

--July 12, 2012

105 West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Gilt City
Dovetail four-course dinner deal was available here*!

* This deal is no longer available, as the event was sold out and has passed.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...