Tom Colicchio is one of the most well-known celebrity chefs in the media, having served as the head judge on the popular Top Chef shows. I’m always somewhat ambivalent about these breeds of chefs who have spent more time on the TV screen than at the kitchen. Is their cooking as good in practice as people think? At least when I visited the chef’s now shuttered restaurant in Chelsea, Colicchio & Sons, several years ago, I was very underwhelmed to say the least. Therefore, when chef Colicchio decided to open a new project at the Beekman Hotel that is five minutes from where I live, I was torn whether I should check out this place. It looked like a classic expense account-type place that you go in more for the crowd and vibe (the bar room outside the restaurant is constantly packed with handsome locals and tourists alike every time my girlfriend and I head over for quick drinks) than the quality of food. When we had a guest from out of town and it was too cold to venture outside, I figured now might as well be the time to try Fowler & Wells. It was a solid meal; somewhat lacking in imagination, but overall I thought the level of execution was on consistently above-average level.
The menu at Fowler & Wells won’t wow you with funny sounding dishes that jump at you. When he opened the restaurant. chef Colicchio himself emphasized that he wants to have a classic American restaurant with more focus to the quality of food than experimenting with different ingredients or techniques from a variety of influences around the world. Still, there were some delicious dishes. Chestnut agnolotti with celery root and black truffles, which the server recommended as the most popular appetizer in the menu, had nice balance of flavor without overpowering creaminess, and sweetbreads with Brussels sprouts, bacon and black trumpets were also serviceable, although I couldn’t find anything that was memorable about Hamachi with sea urchin and matsutake (where is the taste of sea urchin or mushroom?).
Instead of the entrée options on the a la carte menu, we selected two dishes from the tasting menu (offered at $135 per person, and frankly at Fowler & Wells, going a la carte seems like a smarter idea than doing this tasting menu). Lobster “thermidor” with chanterelles and tarragon was expertly cooked and I liked the way the ingredients came together in a delicious way. Instead of the traditional beef Wellington, the restaurant served venison inside the puff pastry, and the combination of the meat with chestnuts, black trumpet mushrooms and huckleberries in the surroundings gave a surprisingly rustic touch that I enjoyed quite a lot. For desserts, I slightly preferred the baked Alaska with chocolate and pecans that gave delightful nutty flavor to the millefeuille with lemon that I couldn’t think anything special about after the meal.
Getting a reservation at the dining room of Fowler & Wells seems a lot easier than securing a space at the bar room outside, where you’re often quoted up to an hour-long wait at peak times. The dining room has a classic American vibe invoking old school New York that fits well with the overall décor of the Beekman Hotel. There is full menu with extensive wine selections (many from France) you can select from to complement your meal. Will I sprint back to Fowler & Wells anytime soon? I doubt it, but I would like to see how the menu evolves over time, as there are some distinctly classic American dishes that I think has potentials to get even better should chef Colicchio pay more attention to his new project.
- Creativity: 7.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 5 Beekman Street, New York, NY 10038
Telephone: (212) 658-1848