01. January 2008 American, Upper West Side 0

103 West 77th Street off Columbus Avenue
$70 each for four, with two bottles of wine, with tip
♥ ♥ ♥

A week into its opening, and chef-owner John Fraser, previously of Snack Taverna, already showed his guns. With ‘Cesca and Telepan, I am glad that I live close to the upper west side and have access to civilized dining without trekking all the way downtown. I will be completely jealous of the neighborhood residents when the restaurant starts serving its $38 suppers a la Lucques of Los Angeles. Judging from the dishes I had during opening week, I know it will also do well when it opens for brunch this new year.

Four of us met at Dovetail to celebrate the end of the year, but one had to run in the rain on her way to the restaurant. Needless to say, she was very unhappy when she couldn’t find the faintly lit door on 77th Street. We all felt we had to apologize to the maitre d’ for her initial reaction, but the staff instead went out of their way to make it up to her.

We immediately started drinking a bottle of Argentinian Malbec while we waited for our orders. An amuse-bouche of caviar and fried capers were served in artsy spoons on top of lentils. Back in my younger days when I volunteered to work in the Bryant Park fashion shows, I had my share of caviar snubbed by the models backstage. Liking caviar is an acquired taste and I’m sorry to say that I still don’t have it especially if they’re served with capers. Nothing to fret over, of course, because the appetizers started coming in.

The pork belly with warm hen’s egg was delicious. The savory porcini mushrooms was a nice contrast to the runny yolk. I love, love, love runny eggs with my dishes! I wasn’t too keen in ordering the gnocchi since I just had them at Bouley three days before and again at Bacaro a week ago, but my friends really wanted to try the veal short ribs that came with it. With black truffles, prunes and shavings of Pecorino, it was an absolutely indulgent and hearty dish. I could eat this in a bowl on my lap any winter night with a glass of full-bodied red wine.

The beef tartare on top of lobster meat was a good combination. Served cold, I thought it was a nice opposite to all the warm plates. I also couldn’t have enough of the Brussels sprouts leaves with Serrano ham. It was very simple; dressed so appropriately with cauliflower and pears.

Into our second bottle of red, this time a lighter Grenache from Australia, we talked about how everything so far had been very satisfying. We have settled on our warm seats and my lone grouchy friend was no longer. The four of us continued to show our carnivorous sides with the beef sirloin, duck, lamb’s meat and tongue. The sirloin was served with beef cheek lasagna and chantarelle mushrooms. I can now get my favorite Babbo dish uptown! The duck, sent complementary by the chef, tasted like really good and juicy beef steak. They disappeared from the plate before I could get a second piece. The lamb, with a nice tabbouleh wrapped in grape leaves, was jazzed up with Indian spices, mint and yogurt. There just shouldn’t be any other way to eat lamb but medium-rare. The lamb’s tongue was an appetizer, but served with our main courses, it was a bit of an anomaly on the table–I ate on my own after my companions focused their attention on the other meats. The parsley leaves were a good distraction to the powerful offal-olive taste.

As for the desserts, Dovetail’s pastry chef matched Fraser’s performance in the kitchen. The citrus came with a cookie and white chocolate. I’ve previously declared my love for desserts with a combination of tart and sweet, but my friends preferred the rich butter pudding with rum and bananas.

As my first post in 2008, I am very satisfied with Dovetail. I hope this means the rest of 2008 will be even better. Happy eating!

Related post/s:
‘cesca is in the neighborhood
And so is Telepan