i have this friend, S, who has been a partner in crime along many of my eating misadventures in nyc. in the past several months we’ve had enough mediocre or even sub-par experiences at new restaurants that well, i think he’s lost the grit to venture into the unknown. he’s developed a new mantra about waiting at least 2 months for new restaurants to work out their kinks, for the staff to learn the ropes, and for all the critics, professional and amateur alike, to throw their 2¢ in.
sometimes, however, it’s worth taking the risk. and for me, there’s nothing more exciting than trying something new and finding gold!
hubs and i walked into andrew carmellini’s latest restaurant, the dutch, on saturday evening and walked away delightfully surprised. we didn’t observe any major operational hiccups (sure, one of the staff placed the silverware for mains a bit too tentatively, suggesting that he was probably a rookie) — a remarkable achievement for a restaurant in its first 4-5 days of opening. the old cub room space has been redecorated with a gotham meets cape cod vibe. it’s casual, comfortable but at the same time hip without trying too hard to achieve that sort of thing.
plus, i really liked how they served us a fresh from the oven, mini-loaf of jalapeño cornbread when we sat down.
the menu, said to be in the american tradition, is much more interesting and eclectic than the categorisation might denote. when i mentioned that it was american cuisine, a friend of mine asked if it was just burgers and fries. the menu is a melting pot of american culture — part oyster bar, part fried chicken joint, part italian, a bit japanese, a bit mexican, and so forth. i suppose it’s fusion but fusion in a really good way. i got a feeling that the chef sat back, thought about all the different things he loved to eat depending on his mood but irregardless of cuisine, and plopped it all on the menu. there’s a glorious spring salad and raw fish for when you want something light. there’s pot pie and fried chicken when you want comfort food. there’s sea bass with citrus & achiote and lamb neck mole when you want something with a complex herb & spice profile. i know that hubs and i will be back to try the rest of the menu that we didn’t get around to on this particular occasion.
so what did we eat? (note: these pictures were taken with my blackberry camera, as i once again forgot to pack proper device)
Hiramasa, Daikoy, Soy & Myoga — incredibly fresh & well-balanced. perfect for when you want something light and refreshing. (you get about 9 pieces on the plate. the picture just shows a section of the plate)
Pecan duck, Celery, Organic Dirty Rice — flavour and tender duck breast, perfectly seared for a crispy crust. the celery shavings are a crisp and fresh contrast to the duck and intensely flavoured dirty rice.
Barrio Tripe, Beer, Avocado. you’re either a tripe person or you’re not. hubs happens to be a tripe person and this dish called out his name. the tripe is stewed for 6 hours in spices and topped with onions, radishes, avocados and what looks like fritos. i liked the tripe we had in florence more, but he seemed to enjoy the dish, downing the whole thing.
my only substantial criticism of the cooking concerns the sides that we ordered. i thought the fries were over-salted. the spinach, which in theory should have paired nicely with shallots and chilis, tasted over-powered by the butter in which it was sautéed– olive oil might have been a better choice.
the dessert menu leaned towards the homey and comfort food side. we didn’t have room for dessert, and instead asked to take home a slice of their rhubarb apple pie, which we ate the next day. the apples tasted as if they had been infused with flowers. assuming that the pie is indicative of the other desserts on the menu, i’m as eager as a beaver to try all the other items on the dessert menu. NB: we were told that the version to be consumed at the restaurant comes with a yogurt ice cream.
131 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012
(i believe their hours are still evolving; and would advise calling ahead to inquire)