I get somewhat suspicious nowadays when a restaurant touts its chef’s background having worked at the world’s acclaimed restaurants. Having worked at a place like elBulli doesn’t mean the chef gained all the experience and skills there and doesn’t necessarily reflect his or her culinary genius either. When Kat & Theo opened, it tried to really stress its chef Paras Shah’s background having worked at elBulli, Per Se and Momofuku Noodle Bar. It also emphasizes that the food at the restaurant resembles nothing like the gastronomic ingenuity of the renowned elBulli but is more accessible Mediterranean food. People would still notice, though, when you bring up magical names like elBulli. That doesn’t necessarily mean, of course, that the kitchen is delivering high-quality food, and Kat and Theo was generally very underwhelming.
The menu consists of starters, main dishes and sides. They consist of pretty straightforward Mediterranean crowd-pleasers that frankly you are not supposed to go wrong with. Well, charred octopus with gigante bean puree, orange and oregano was crisp on the outside but was surprisingly overcooked. Mackerel with black garlic, scallion and black lime was more successful, but it wasn’t particularly memorable either and was a bit too salty. Lobster with grapefruit and hearts of palm was simple disaster; I never had lobster as tasteless as the one from the kitchen here before.
The mains were slightly better but really not by much. I remember nothing about trout that came with almond, crispy ham and sage brown butter. NY strip steak that came with onion, foie butter and soubric turned out to be almost medium even though we specifically asked for medium rare. The most successful dish was the gigantic lamb shank that came with fig and roasted vegetables. I did like the tender texture of the meat and its seasoning was more consistent than other dishes; still, let’s just say I’ve had better lamb dishes elsewhere in the city. For desserts, I did like the maple and milk dessert that came with brown butter and fennel pollen, with a very refreshing taste that soothed by disappointment with earlier dishes somewhat. Carrot cake with candied pistachio, yogurt and espresso was also solid, but not particularly memorable.
Getting a reservation is relatively easy although the dining area was quite packed throughout the course of my meal. The restaurant has a full bar with surprisingly large wine selections. It seems the restaurant is perhaps more interested in drawing crowds than showcasing the kitchen’s brilliance, with the trendy décor that would naturally draw a lot of young, hip crowd looking for a meal before they hit up bars. Too bad the food just didn’t deliver…
- Creativity: 7.0/10
- Execution: 5.5/10
- Ingredients: 6.0/10
- Flavor: 5.5/10
- Texture: 6.5/10
Address: 5 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10010
Telephone: (212) 380-1950