All young chefs dream of cooking nightly at the small, signature place that defines them,” writes Tom Colicchio on the back of the menu at his new Tom Tuesday Dinner, “changing the menu based on what’s at the market that day, with their hands on every plate that leaves the kitchen.”
Diners dream of that too. And in this quirky little Shangri-La of a restaurant, which serves dinner once every two weeks, Colicchio has created a perfect dream: small, comfortable and unpretentious. The walls are bare bricks, the air is filled with quiet blues, and the focal point of the darkly romantic room is the open kitchen where the chef and a couple of helpers cook with joyful confidence.
Colicchio is a TV star and a hugely successful restaurateur with eight establishments to his name, but he seems intent on reminding us that he can still cook. His food has always been characterized by a kind of muscular simplicity, but he’s outdoing himself here, combining flavors in fascinating ways. At his most recent dinner he paired soft little nuggets of lobster with a barely cooked egg and topped it with the tang of celery root and velvet shavings of foie gras. That was followed by the simplest strip of turbot, the flesh perfumed with fennel, the skin remarkably crisp. Sweetbreads were as soft as clouds, surrounded by grapes and tiny red onions. Mallard was wild, rare, and meaty, the mineral tang resonating gorgeously in the mouth. It all ended with a little ode to autumn—warm chestnut waffles with tiny roasted seckle pears and a deep, dark cranberry sorbet.
Yes it’s expensive; this meal cost $150 per person, and the lovely wine pairings added another $95 a head. But it was such a satisfying experience—everything you want a restaurant to be—that I may have to splurge again soon.
Tom Tuesday Dinner Private room at Craft, 47 E. 19th St., New York City (212-400-6495)