Colicchio & Sons
Tom Colicchio had a mixed year in 2010, on the one hand he was the winner of the 2010 Outstanding Chef award from the James Beard Foundation, no small feat, and he also won an Emmy for his work on the TV show Top Chef. On the other, his return to the kitchen in his newly opened New York restaurant Collicchio and Sons (C&S) was met with mixed reviews from the heavy hitters. With a growing restaurant empire and a TV career to boot, it was a bold move to claim he wanted to get back into the kitchen and do what he does best, cook authentic modern American food with local, seasonal ingredients. Poor reviews aside, I am a fan of Colicchios (slow) food philosophy and was eager to taste his creations in person. As with any fine dining in a big city, the menu at C&S is not cheap but the 8 course tasting menu with matched wines at US$200 per head seemed like a fairly good deal, especially compared to some of the other haute cuisine tasting menu prices in Manhattan.
C&S is in the same space that Tom’s New York Craft-Steak Restaurant was. Last Christmas it was hastily renovated in about a week and transformed into what is now C&S. It is located on Tenth Ave directly behind the Chelsea Markets (see last blog!). The room is split into two separate areas, the very trendy Tap Bar which serves a cheaper, more informal menu and a very wide selection of beers and the back area which is the formal dining room. The whole space is very open but dimly lit, which I like, I never enjoy eating out in a brightly lit room. As open as the dining area is, you do feel cosy as we were greeted by a smiling maître‘d, who took our coats and made us feel at home while directing us to our table. I have read several reviews which commented on how poor the service was, but we did not have this problem. Throughout the meal we were treated with the attention a triple figured bill deserves. The sommelier and waiters talked us through every meal and were attentive with clearing our wine glasses and all our dishes flowed in a good time. Another issue that had been addressed was cold plates and luke warm food, this also wasn’t an issue for us. Pre-amble aside let’s get into the most important part of any review – the FOOD!
We didn’t receive any amuse-bouches, which seem to be the very trendy thing to serve between every course in London, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness. To be honest, an 8 course meal is enough on its own. We were however presented with 6 freshly made bread rolls smothered in butter which was fairly amazing – being butter junkies we could have scoffed them all but thought better of it!
Our first wine was a Sparkling Pinot Gris from Alsace served with a Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Diver Sea Scallops, Black Truffle Jellee, Apple and Brussel Sprout leaves. There was an interesting mix of textures with the soft panna cotta, soft truffle jelly and raw divers scallop against the crunchy texture of the apple. The scallop was delicious as was the shaved black truffle which I often find overrated and an un-necessary addition, and while I am yet to be converted into a truffle fanatic, this dish definitely helped me on my way. The sweet sparkling matched the dish well and served as a nice palate cleansing finish to the course.
Next up was a dish of Duck Egg, Confit Gizzard with Crunchy Parsnip and Parsnip Puree. On paper not my most exciting course but it was actually very good. The sweet and crispy parsnip went perfectly with the savoury duck egg and small slices of gizzard, which had a mild flavour, and both of our eggs were cooked to perfection with a runny yolk. The only issue with this course was the wine pairing. The Chote Du Rhone didn’t match well at all, as it diffused the sweetness of the dish. I think the word that first came to mind was, ‘jarring’. This was the only wine which we didn’t like during the evening.
The sommelier claimed the next dish as his favourite and it was one of ours too; Maine Lobster (Knuckle, Claw and Tail) with Candied Orange, Black Truffles and a Seafood Stock Reduction. The lobster was juicy and sweet and I thought it went perfectly with the candied orange. I could have had more orange rather than so much shaved Truffle but my dining companion loved it, it may just be me and my Truffle hang up again! It was paired with a Pinot Grigio from Alsace which was the nicest white of the evening and complimented the lobster perfectly.
The next course of Poached Long Island Fluke with Butter sauce, Cockles and Puffed Rice, came out slightly before the wine was served and we waited for the wine. The dish was steaming hot though so this wasn’t really an issue. I liked the Fluke, it was cooked to perfection, and the butter sauce was creamy and rich. The cockles didn’t seem to add to the dish that much in my opinion and other reviews had commented on them being overly ‘fishy’ for the dish. The puffed rice on top was maybe an odd addition, on the menu it said black garlic but the garlic has obviously been substituted for the rice. I quite enjoyed the crispy textures of the rice against the flaky fish and buttery sauce but my companion thought they were an unnecessary distraction from the well cooked fluke. It was served with a crisp Chardonnay from Burgundy. It was quite a young wine and didn’t have a heavy oak flavour which meant it paired nicely with the white fish and butter sauce.
Next to be served was the Suckling Pig, which we both had been salivating over on the menu for a few days. It was Suckling pig, Turnip Puree, Candied Turnip Confit Apple, Black Pepper and a Caramel Sauce. It wasn’t the most elegantly presented plate (see the image) but man, that small piece of pig had enough porky flavour to make up for any visual short comings! The Turnip Puree was amazing as well and I really liked how there was a small pile of black pepper on the plate to mix in with the sauce and puree; it added a punch of flavour to the very savoury and deeply meaty pork. Apple and pork is obviously a time honoured favourite and it worked well here, as did the candied turnips, although the skin could have been removed from the apple as it was quite chewy. The pork was served with our first red of the evening, a Santa Barbara Pinot Noir which I really liked. I haven’t tried many Reds from that far south in California and found it to have a sweet edge but packed a punch that matched the deep meaty flavour of the pork excellently.
Our last main was Cervana Vensison, Quince Jelly, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Brussel Sprouts, paired with an Amarone della Valpolicella, which I had never tried before. At this stage of the meal we were feeling relaxed and quite full after the suckling pig. The Venison was amazing though. Cooked just the way we like it, pink in the middle and served beautifully on a bed of brussel sprouts and a generous amount of black trumpet mushrooms. The mushrooms were amazing and their earthy flavours packed a punch against the gamey meat. The wine was strong and rich with strong notes of raisin which I liked against the equally powerful flavour of the mushrooms. At this stage of the meal I was left to finish the ends of the last two wines for my companion as she couldn’t keep up! If we were to go back, I would re-order this dish on its own purely for the taste of those amazing mushrooms.
The prospect of two dessert courses seemed daunting now but the first one was so amazing I could have eaten another. It was a very interesting and creative take on cheese and fruit, which I love (think pear and blue costello). It was Goats Cheese Panna Cotta with Pear and Pomegranate sorbet, Pomegranate Seeds and Sliced Fresh Pear. The sorbet and fruit sat atop a thin layer of panna cotta which had the richest flavour of goat’s cheese. Interestingly, on its own the panna cotta tasted quite mild but the sweetness of the sorbets really pulled out the flavour of the cheese. It felt like a deconstructed cheese and fruit plate and tasted amazing, very light but with strong savoury/sweet notes. This was served with a sweet white wine which by this stage was becoming difficult to finish.
The 8th and final course was another dessert, a Caramel Soufflé, with a Milk Chocolate, Earl-Grey Parfait, Cinnamon Custard, Candied Cashews and Chocolate Ice Cream. This was paired with a very sweet Moscato D’Asti. As rich as this dish sounds it actually was quite light, the soufflé was falling by the time it arrived but was airy and full of rich caramel flavour and the ice cream and parfait were served in such small amounts that it was a perfect way to finish an amazing meal. The Mascato paired well with the chocolate ice cream but I am not such a huge fan of fortified wines and found myself with a half full glass when the waiter cleared our table.
The sommelier joked that we were both in very high spirits at the end of our meal, he said that after the tasting menu people are usually slumped in their seats in a food coma of sorts! We were both extremely happy with the entire meal. It was a mixture of many flavour combinations, some I had never tried before and some classics done to perfection (the suckling pig!). I am not entirely sure what modern American cuisine is still, but C&S managed to construct a menu that showed off some of the best ingredients from the East Coast of the States with flair and precision. Sadly we didn’t see Mr Colicchio himself in the kitchen and just days before we ate award winning Chef De Cuisine Shane McBride resigned to move onto bigger and better things. All this being said the chefs and staff at C&S managed to put together a very memorable meal which we were more than happy to fork out for. It’s not the type of dinner you would eat regularly but if you are in New York and looking for something special I would highly recommend it, especially if you want to try something special but less cliché than Per Say or Le Bernardin.
Previous bad reviews aside Colicchio and Sons seems to be finding it’s feet and has sorted out some of it’s growing pains. Whether Tom himself will continue donning the whites and cooking or how the departure of McBride will affect the restaurant is yet to be seen.
To top the evening off we were presented with two freshly baked pumpkin muffins to take home for breakfast. Amazingly I was almost tempted to eat mine on the train home but though better of it and saved it for the morning…They were amazing.
Restaurant Review by Mise En Place Hospitality RecruitmentShare