South Gate, February 29, 2008

South Gate

Kerry Heffernan, one of the nicest chefs you'll ever come across, is back.

He's ditched the Hudson Yards Catering gig for a restaurant in the Essex House Hotel. And what a restaurant it is!

The place is beautiful. The location is ideal. The food is terrific.

My only issue with the decor is the display columns at the bar. It seems out of place to have on display the bottles of booze the restuarant carries in the way that they've set it up. It seems off. I would have put vases with seasonal fruits or something like that in the glass cases instead of the bottles of Johnny Walker, Cointreau and the like.

But the food is great and brings back memories of a previous incarnation of Eleven Madison Park. The food isn't too frilly. You won't see crazy food combinations or even super over the top artsy presentations (like Dovetail, or the current Eleven Madison Park). What you get is perfectly cooked dishes in presentations that are approachable.

Some items have made the journey including a Chicken sandwich with St. Andre cheese but new items like the pork belly that I had show that this restaurant has legs.

I've always enjoyed this chef's soups, and was pleased at the semi-deconstructed french onion soup, which they simply call an onion consomme. It had all of the ingredients of the bistro favorite but instead of cheese oozing all over the top, it had three or four cheese dumplings floating in the rich-hued broth. Clever, but not too clever and effectively tasty.

The pork belly, served as two logs, were also delicious and served with an Chinese leeks and kholrabi puree. All of it excellent - though the level of thinness that these purees are being made to make me think that its purpose is more about being a sauce than a starch. Similar thing happened at Bruno Jamais the other day.

Anyway, a great meal in a great space with terrific service. Can't ask for much more than that.


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