If you look at the menus of the recently opened The Loyal and other restaurants like Narcissa or Nix, you wouldn’t know they are all from the same chef. John Fraser has long been known for one of the best chefs in New York City for his exciting vegetable-centric cooking, and everywhere I go, his restaurants didn’t disappoint for the kitchen’s ability to maintain balance in creativity and execution as well as its commitment to ingredients. When I heard that he was opening a more straightforward American bistro last year, I was somewhat puzzled. Is chef Fraser playing safe like many others in the city who are facing the crunch from soaring rents and labor costs? The Loyal’s menu doesn’t really seem to have a distinct identity like chef Fraser’s other restaurants; it has a bunch of crowd-pleasers with heavy focus on meat. Well, my recent dinner with my wife Jun at the restaurant proves that even if a more “boring” concept, chef Fraser surely knows how to pull it off beautifully.
The menu at The Loyal is divided into raw bar and bar snacks, appetizers, pastas and entrees. Any meal at the restaurant should absolutely start with the delicious bites of drunken eggs with chili oil and sesame that had a pleasant mix of spicy and sweet sensation all mixed up wonderfully. Lobster cocktail with smoked tomatoes was another winner that you should consider kicking off your meal with. For a chef who has made his name for vegetable dishes, chef Fraser has quite impressed both of us for the two meat entrée dishes we had ordered. The burger with comte and “22-step” tomato was perfectly cooked medium rare and its richness was even more impressive considering that the seasoning itself was kept at an optimal level. Add a side of duck fat tots, and you have one of the best new burgers in town.
When I saw the beef tenderloin covered in salsa verde béarnaise sauce, I regretted that I didn’t tell the server to bring the sauce on the side. To my surprise, the béarnaise wasn’t too strong in seasoning and its subtle flavor actually enhanced the very nicely grilled tenderloin, accompanied by stuff mushrooms on the side for a fantastic meat dish. Jun and I had no problem making a quick work of both the burger and the beef tenderloin. For dessert, the Sonoma harvest sundaes with concord grape and yogurt sorbets accompanied by delightful honeycomb crunch led us to conclude without reservation that The Loyal is a very good restaurant.
Getting a reservation at The Loyal could be difficult during prime times on the weekend, so always book in advance. Service was overall good although Jun was a little upset that the hostess tried to lead us to the table right next to the door (on a freezing Sunday evening) even though there were other tables for two on the inner part of the restaurant. There is full bar with some aptly concocted cocktail selections (there was one called Willy Wonka with Korean chocolate stick called pepero). The restaurant’s vibe is that of a typical West Village bistro that works for multiple occasions (Jun and I could tell that all the people sitting on our rows of tables for two were either couples or on a date). The Loyal may not be the most exciting dining destination to visit right now, but if you want to walk out with a satisfying dinner, it is definitely a place I would recommend checking out.
KenScale: 8.5/10 (Jun’s score: 8.5/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 289 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10014
Telephone: (212) 488-5800