103 West 77th Street between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues
about $167 for two, with drinks, with tip
♥ ♥ ♥

Oh, this is your place? asked John Fraser, Dovetail’s chef. Erin and I ran into him as we were leaving the restaurant and we started telling him about our vegetarian-vegan restaurant project for this site. Erin has been bringing me to her places for the past month and now it’s my turn to bring her to one of mine.

Dovetail has expanded their space. Gone is the sliver of a bar by the entrance; there’s actually a small room that looks out 77th Street now. I’ve eaten at Dovetail several times, but I guess it’s been a while since my last visit. The private room next to the kitchen is still downstairs though, and one day, I would like an intimate dinner there with some of my closest friends. Besides the space, not much has changed. The staff is still churning some impressive plates and concocting some fancy cocktails (what happened to the Asian hipster with the funky hair?); their pastry chef, Vera Tong, is still wowing diners with her amazing desserts.

Dovetail started serving vegetable-focused menus on Monday nights and I thought it would be perfect to take Erin to one of my favorite restaurants to show her how talented kitchens could–and should–whip up vegetable, and even vegan, dishes. At $42 for four courses including dessert, it’s a deal you really can’t beat. The selections were so ridiculously difficult to choose from that I had to order an extra course. I simply couldn’t make up my mind between the sea urchin and the chanterelle mushrooms.

There are fewer vegan choices, but Erin didn’t have a problem eating the peach salad with the avocados. I read that they came brushed with chili oil, but I was wondering if aged balsamic vinegar was involved as well. Her tofu had a hint of lemongrass in the chai curry: it was bright and didn’t weigh down the tempura breading. She needed my help by the time she got to the barbecue parsnip rib with potatoes, pineapple and peanuts and I was glad to pick on her plate.

I started with the lightly-breaded and fried squash blossom stuffed with cauliflower. A frisée salad had a salty kick with small bits of smoked trout which was in turn held back by the horseradish and peppermint white sauce. The “chanterelles on a shingle” came next, a play on a traditional wartime dish called Shit on a Shingle (or SOS) made of heavy cream. The Brussels sprouts were pebble-sized and tender and gave good texture to the soft figs. The military would have loved this version better.

What came next blew my mind away: congee flavored with shiso leaves and topped with braised cucumbers and uni. It was so delicate and yet the flavors came out so strong. If John Fraser himself came up with this dish, then I want to have a drink with John Fraser. This dish, this dish is what makes a cook a chef. I ended with the button mushroom gnocchi in Bordelaise sauce. It was a little heavy after that heavenly porridge, but the radish cut through the French sauce. The butternut squash reminded me that autumn is here and if I eat any more Dovetail-caliber food in the next few months, I hope it stays.

Related post/s:
I went to Dovetail late 2007 and predicted it would be one of the best in 2008