Whenever Chefs Club brings a new out-of-town chef or restaurant in residence, I am always excited to check what the new pop-up can bring to the table. Some of my best meals in 2018 were from Chefs Club (see review here https://kenscale.com/2018/03/23/chefs-club-dabney/, here https://kenscale.com/2018/06/12/chefs-club-sota-atsumi/ and here https://kenscale.com/2018/09/01/chefs-club-fat-rice/), and having grown accustomed to (and even sometimes fatigued by) the dining scene in New York, it’s nice to see a new culinary perspective that an outsider can showcase. Starting from December, Chefs Club invited Conca del Sogno, a famed Italian restaurant on the Amalfi Coast, to helm the kitchen while it was taking a winter break. While my wife Jun and I have yet to visit the Amalfi Coast (it certainly is in our bucket list), we had good experiences with restaurants last time we had visited Italy so I figured this pop-up would be worth checking out. There were some hits and misses (particularly on the entrée side) but overall we liked many of the dishes we tried.
The menu at Conca del Sogno’s pop-up is fairly standard consisting of appetizers, pastas, fish and meat followed by desserts. Anyone who regularly follows my reviews would know that I’m not typically an eggplant person, but for the appetizer here I highly endorse the eggplant dish with mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil and parmesan. The eggplant was prepared in ideal texture and the other ingredients worked together harmoniously to give a delicious flavor. For pasta, we couldn’t find any spaghetti on the menu that jumped out, so opted for risotto with porcini mushrooms and shaved black truffles, which turned out to be a wise decision. Jun and I don’t eat risottos that often (after all, we eat plenty of rice at home when she cooks), but this one was very satisfying with the earthy aroma coming from the mushrooms and truffles.
Compared to the first two dishes, the entrée options were somewhat underwhelming. The branzino baked in salt crust was nicely cooked but it certainly wasn’t the best we’d had before (and it didn’t help that the deboning of the fish wasn’t as competently done as we had expected), and the scaloppini veal tenderloin’s texture was simply off; Jun was certainly expecting a more tender piece of meal and I regretted we didn’t try other meat dishes on the menu such as rib eye or lamb loin. Our mild disappointment with the main dishes quickly disappeared once the desserts came. I don’t think I have seen the cream puff profiteroles made with pistachio before, and started to wonder why more restaurants do not use it for their desserts while Jun kept marveling at the delightful taste of the pastry. I also don’t remember seeing passion fruit syrup used for panna cotta, and certain didn’t complain that the kitchen opted to use this fruit base instead of raspberry (which is the one used more regularly according to the server).
Getting a reservation at Chefs Club through online shouldn’t be too difficult, and the pop-up, which was initially scheduled to be over at the end of 2018, recently got extended to February 1 so now is your chance to look up for open tables. There is full bar with standard cocktails and Italian-centric wine lists; I was slightly annoyed that most of the bottles were on the high-end side of pricing (no single Chianti Classico from Tuscany?). I also wished that the décor of the dining space were even more tweaked to give that Italian coastal vibe (similar to the way the Fat Rice’s residence several months ago gave a distinctly Macao ambiance). Still, the dining experience at the Conca del Sogno pop-up is a solid one if you order the right dishes. I will look it up next time Jun and I have an opportunity to visit the Amalfi Coast.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.0/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 7.5/10
Address: 275 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 941-1100