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Del Posto | New York | Oct ’13 | “Ruth Reichl pointed me here”

25 Oct
Address: 85 10th Ave, New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 497-8090
The NYTimes four star restaurants tend to be Michelin 3 star restaurants, with one exception: Del Posto. The difference makes sense to me in these terms: the NYTimes 4-star restaurants are dining experiences first and foremost, whereas the Michelin 3-star restaurants are more about reflecting an individual chef’s vision for food.
The best description I’ve heard about the concept of Del Posto is that it glamourises an essentially simple and rustic cuisine, bringing French finesse to Italian ingredients. Del Posto simply means “The Place” in English. Del Posto’s ambition seems to be about constructing a vision of haute-Italian cuisine.
But haute Italian‘s not the reason I’ve come to Del Posto today: It is Ruth Reichl’s endorsement.
The next day you might want to stay above 14th Street. If that’s the case, I’d suggest, breakfast at Maialino (porchetta and fried egg sandwich), then a wander through Eataly.  I’d stare at the gorgeous display of meat at the butcher, appreciate the produce, and perhaps have a tiny bite at Il Pesce, the wonderful fish bar. For lunch I’d opt for the prix fixe lunch at either Nougatine at Jean Georges or Del Posto; they’re the two best deals in New York. Fabulous food in fantastic settings – for under $40. Finally, I’d have a farewell drink at Michael Lomonaco’s Center Bar, look out at the view and toast the city. –Forty Hours in Manhattan
$40 for lunch, is a figure to gladden any heart long inured to Manhattan prices.
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The fabulous dining room, with piano muzak
(Sorry for the skewed photo)
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The bar
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1. “Cheeto” corn puff with lobster
2. Cucumber sandwich
3. Gazpacho rimmed with parsley
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(L) lardo, (R) whipped butter
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Baguette, Thyme Focaccia, Olive Brioche
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Antipasti: Bitter Herbs & Lettuces / Del Posto Truffle Dressing (4.5/5)
Shaved truffly bits gave a smell of the earth, to red endives, and various heirloom lettuces. The overall effect was refreshing, from the bitter-sweet mix of herbs, and the black truffle jus with a hint of tabasco.
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Secondi: Neapolitan Lamb / Smoked Tail, Salsa Madre & Wilted Water Spinach (5/5)
To Singaporean readers, you might be more familiar with Wilted Water Spinach as ‘kang kong’. A really delicious dish: the lamb had perfect charring, which is to say it had a crisp millimetre-thick outer layer, with tender inners. I cannot imagine roasting lamb any better than this, and I suspect it is down to a handy blowtorchman. The wilted (tongue-in-cheek: microwaved?) kang kong paired very well with the lamb texturally and taste-wide finished with a simple tomato salsa.
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Intermezzo: Cashew Gelato (beneath) with Passionfruit Sorbet, Olive Oil & Malt Salt
Beautiful. Pure tasting. Cashew gelato tasted like cashew.
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Dolci: Butterscotch Semifreddo, Melon Agrumata and Crumbled Sbrisolona (5/5)
Rehydrated candy melon, with shaved apple slices. This is one of Del Posto’s signature desserts, and has apparently not changed a whit since at least 2010. With good reason too, because this thick slab of butterscotch ice cream can hardly been improved upon. Milk jam, crumbly bits, little candy fruits, all decorate the central slab of decadence.
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Olive Oil Gelato in Chocolate, Lollipop
Italian Donut with Cream
Dehydrated grapefruit, rehydrated with grenadine
Chocolate walnut, very crispy
As you might tell, I enjoyed my lunch at Del Posto very much. I’m not very churlish about food prices, but when I get out of a beautiful dining room for under $50, having had consistently excellent amuses, bread, starters, mains, intermezzos, desserts, petit-fours, I recognise the bargain when I see one.
At the same time, I can see why one might not enjoy Del Posto-style dining. The dishes here have clearly been perfected over many hundreds and thousands of diners. The chef in the system is an executor of the haute-Italian vision, and the streamlined wins over the quirky. This is a derivative vision (from the French) of high-end Italian, not an individual chef’s vision for what haute-Italian can be tomorrow. Del Posto is genre novel, as opposed to autobiography. The Michelin guide likes autobiography.
Today though, the notes sing in perfect harmony, and the atonal chords are hushed.
Rating: 17/20
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