Out of all the top restaurants in New York, I’ve had the highest level of frustration booking a table at Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. In its previous location in Brooklyn, the restaurant only accepted reservations via phone, and the line opens up at 10 a.m. every Monday for any spot in a given day 7 weeks out. Whenever I called, the line was busy, and by the time I got connected to the reservation line around, say, noon, all the tables were taken. I was giving up on trying my luck at the restaurant until I heard recently that the restaurant moved to the Brooklyn Fare location in Manhattan’s Midtown West neighborhood, and a friend of mine who is a regular at the market was able to connect with a person who is in charge with taking care of reservations. To my shock, I had no problem getting a spot around 3 weeks out during prime time on a Friday evening, and was super excited to finally see what chef Cèsar Ramirez has been up to at his kitchen. The verdict: chef Ramirez’s tasting menu (now up at $330 per person) certainly didn’t disappoint and it should be one of the best fine dining destinations in the city.
The seafood-centric tasting menu at Chef’s Table leans toward Japanese and I really loved the consistent level of clean flavor and emphasis on textural delight of each dish. I could tell that the kitchen is very meticulous when it comes to sourcing different seafood ingredients in various bite-sized starters that were rolled out, whether that’s the pile of trout roe in the tartlet form, sea urchin from Hokkaido with a sheet of black truffle on top, or the white yellowtail accompanied by ginger and sunchoke pepper. Sea urchin was one of the freshest I’ve had in a while, and I still can’t figure out what kind of magic the kitchen put together for the yellow tail with astounding level of balance in flavor and texture.
Caviar that came on top of kabocha squash was pure bliss as well, and Norwegian king crab accompanied by apple and shiso was not only beautiful looking with flower petals on top but so memorably delicious with complexity of flavor as well. I’m not sure if I have had a grilled lobster as wonderfully crunchy as the one that I’ve had at the Chef’s Table in recent years, and the koshihikari rice submerged below black truffle displayed a ton of richness without somehow making me tired of it, and I indulged in every scoop of this marvelous dish. Compared to all the brilliant seafood dishes, the lone meat dish, Miyazaki wagyu, somewhat paled in comparison. The meat was expertly cooked to more or less perfect medium rare, but I kept wondering if the meat would’ve been better served with the sauce underneath that was rather strong in flavor.
Following a refreshing scoop of grapefruit sorbet came a couple of outstanding dessert dishes. Soba chai ice cream with soy caramel had the nice hint of Japanese flavor, and my girlfriend and I couldn’t stop raving about the frozen almond soufflé that was so wonderfully delicate that we had no problem finishing our share even though we were beyond stuffed by this time. Toward the end of the meal, chef Ramirez stopped by to check if everything was OK (he occasionally served dishes right in front of guests, such as the caviar) and graciously agreed to take photos with us. There has been some rumblings about issues with chef Ramirez’s demeanor in the press a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t sense any of that in our brief interaction with him.
I suspect the relative ease with which I was able to snag a spot was Chef’s Table has to do with the fact that the Manhattan location now has tables outside of the kitchen counter that can serve additional diners. Guests who dine at 6 or 9 p.m. slots are expected to be seated at the counter, while those who dine in between (like us when we booked a spot at 7:30 p.m.) will be eating at the surrounding tables so if you want to have a counter tasting experience, make sure to book the time slots. There is a vast wine selection (many from France) from which you can select to complement your awesome meal. I can’t compare the atmosphere of the Manhattan location to that in Brooklyn since I’ve been to the previous one before, but overall it was civilized vibe without the fuss of fine dining. I’m so glad that Chef’s Table made a move to Manhattan (conversely, it marks the end of an era where Brooklyn used to have at least one three-Michelin star dining establishment) and would love to see how the food here evolves over time. The overall dining experience at Chef’s Table certainly puts it at the top echelon of all the wonderful culinary spaces in the city.
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 9.5/10
- Ingredients: 9.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.5/10
Address: 431 West 37th Street, New York, NY 10018
Telephone: (718) 243-0050