NYC: Dovetail (Sep. 2012): Dinner with Tad
Authors: Victor, Monty, Steven, and Tad
Exec Chef: John Fraser
(Chef Fraser used to be a chef de partie at the French Laundry and the executive chef at Compass.)
Date: September 18, 2012
-The “Dovetail” name comes from the “dovetail joint”. The dovetail joint is used to join the sides of a drawer to the front, so the idea is that it joins things together. Basically, they want to bring together different cuisines and cooking styles! (Tad’s Note: Unfortunately, I have no idea how to build a drawer. But apparently the restaurant was named after it).
-We’ve been here a couple of times, but this is the first time that we bothered to actually take pictures.
-The others may have only been here a couple of times, but I’ve been here many more times. I’m just here to see these guys refine themselves. What a Pygmalion am I.
-This is one of my favorite restaurants because it’s really casual and close. It’s one of the few restaurants worth going to in the Upper West Side, and their dress code is just smart casual (that means jeans allowed for you Plebes).
-Despite the chef’s pedigree, it is actually surprisingly easy to get reservations here… It makes it feel less exclusive :(.
DELICIOUS cornbread, rosemary cracker, and truffle arancini.
Monte: The Arancini is so juicy and bursts in your mouth with a pleasantly overwhelming aroma of truffle. It’s soft, crispy, and delicate – yet the flavor remains well after you’ve finished the small bite.
Tad: I don’t like how they only use a tiny bit of truffle. What is this, McDonald’s? Anyway, people think bread is a simple course, but at good restaurants, they put a lot of effort into it. Just adding butter is not the way to win Tad’s custom.
Cauliflower and marinated heirloom tomatoes with fresh chives.
Monte: It was light, fresh, clean. The tomatos lent a really tart yet sweet undertone to the dish. A good start to the meal.
Tad: Well, my bouche was amused. To truly enjoy the culinary prowess of a chef, you have to try a vegetable tasting menu. Any fool with a smock can make lobster and caviar taste good (these fools tried it with the caviar I got them), but it takes a true master to make peasant food like cauliflower or beets pass the grade.
Steven: “I didn’t taste any curry…was there supposed to be curry?”
Victor: “Um, speaking of curry, you gotta try the Phaal at Bricklane curry. It makes both your mouth and your…um other extremities burn.”
Steven: “Uh….no. That sounds really really really painful. Why would I do that?”
Cantaloupe soup with pickled watermelon, fennel, and marinated hearts of palm.
Monte: I love hearts of palm in this dish – it was meaty, with only a hint of tartness and overall was a nice contrast to the sweet cantaloupe.
Tad: This was pretty good. The watermelon tasted quite strong. I suppose this is what some people say “summer” tastes like, although my parents didn’t really feed me watermelon by itself. Or, if they did, it was premium seedless, and my nanny had to slice it for me or juice it. Anyway, this tasted like summer.
Victor: This was so good! I also LOVED watermelon growing up. My mom prepared it for me a lot when I was young!
Tad: Ew. Your mom actually… prepared food herself?
Victor: Uh… yes?
quinoa, snap peas, habanero purée, and jicama
Monte: The turnip was meaty and the habanero spice really cut well through sweet/sour tones of the other flavors. It felt like I was eating a ceviche made with seafood – everything was really well marinated.
Tad: This reminds me of the time when a waiter at Jean Georges referred to their crudo dish as a “sushi dish.” Sushi means vinegar rice, as even a gaijin like me knows. If you are going to work at Jean Georges, you should know that about food. At most, I would understand it if it were referred to as a sashimi dish, which is simply raw fish. About this dish…meh.
Steven: “I really like this, man. It’s like…vegetables that taste like fish. And the spice is excellent.”
Victor: “So you DO like spice.”
Steven: “I am not trying that stupid Phaal dish.”
Monte: “Steven, I thought you told me you liked the idea of butt leakage.”
Victor: “…Where did that come from?”
poblanos and thyme
This is before they poured the corn soup:
After pouring the corn soup:
Monte: Corn chowder is love. Subtle sweetness of the corn and fresh tomato made this a very light dish! Other corn chowders can be so heavy with cream but Dovetail’s pretty much made the soup as much of a light liquid corn as possible. Also, at this point, we might have started having a deep conversation about how old we would do.
Steven: “So… how old would you guys go?”
Victor: “What?!? Why would you even think of that?!”
Steven: “What’s the oldest age you would be willing to do?”
Tad: “To me, women are like a fine wine…you should lock them in a safe on their side so that you can access them whenever you want, but you keep them away from unworthy eyes. Haha, just kidding, that’s too much even for me. But, seriously, get a safe.”
Monte: “Dude, I saw this interview earlier with an 81 year old Supermodel! She was gorgeous when young but still even now she looks good for an 81 year old.”
[Furious checking of smartphones]
Steven: “Eh…I could sort of see it. But I think my age is 60. One year above that, no.”
[Large debate erupts over the aesthetics of older women and how old Jane Seymour was during Wedding Crashers]
truffles, smoked beets, and apples
Monte: Leeks can have a really strong oniony-licorice flavor that can be unpleasant but for me, this dish had none of that. I never thought of leeks as meaty but this one had a lot of tender flesh that became a beautiful vehicle for the rest of the dish’s flavors.
Tad: This is exactly what I am talking about…the simple beet, a root, ugly, humble, and any farmer can eat it. Normal people eat it in salads, praise it for its great health benefits. But in the hands of a skillful chef, its pungent flavor can really tie a dish together.
Steven: Like that time you took me to Eleven Madison Park… Ever since that time, I’ve been addicted to beets to try to recapture that flavor.
Tad: Well, when I want to do that, I just go back to EMP.
broccoli rabe, fresh Asian pears, reduction of Asian pears, and capers
Monte: The capers were very sour and the pear very sweet – together, a good complement but separately not as pleasant. The capers made one’s face purse together to form fish lips.
Tad: Hey, don’t you guys just call it pear?
Steven: Because we’re Asian?
Tad: No, because your palates aren’t refined enough to tell the difference.
peas, couscous, fennel, charred onions, and harissa
Monte: “Yay, carrots. I really like this dish.”
Steven: “Me too… Reminds me of a dish I saw on Hells Kitchen. Even with this dish, I bet chef Ramsay would crap on it.”
Victor: “Haha, I can see that… He totally would.”
[Tad is zoned out…he doesn’t watch reality t.v.]
Steven (imitating Ramsay): “This is teh-rrible!”
Monte: “This is rahncid!! Ab-so-loot-lee rahncid!”
Steven: “It’s RAWR!!!” (raw) [Flings hands outward like he’s exasperated]
[Dovetail Waiter interrupts immediately and asks,”Is everything cooked to your liking sir?”]
Steven: (sheepishly) “Oh yes, everything is great.”
[two seconds of silence before we burst out laughing]
Ratatouille tarte tatin
salsa verde salad, salsa verde purée, and black garlic purée
Victor: This is maybe my second-favorite vegetable course of all time, second only to Per Se’s “Red-wine-braised heirloom onions” course.
Tad: How do you remember the names of these dishes? I’ve eaten at these places so many times that I really can’t be bothered to keep these dish titles straight.
Monte: This is my favorite vegetarian course of all time. It made my mouth orgasm and eyes dilate with its fresh, warm, earthy slices of vegetable under a buttery tart. This dish was elegant and yet so simple – exactly like how the movie makes it seem. It didn’t taste greasy at all, and the black garlic puree underneath was a perfect complement. Ramsey would be proud (Although I’m not sure Chef Fraser gives two fracks what Ramsey thinks)
Steven: Yeah, this reminds me of the dish in the Pixar movie. It really is really complex. My favorite dish of the night.
Tad: Well, I was speaking with one of my buddies (he produces movies), and he said that Thomas Keller not only served as a consultant on the film, but also had a cameo as the voice of one of the patrons. Ferran Adria was the same voice in the Spanish version of the film.
Monte: Oh I’d love to be in a movie, can your buddy get me a cameo role?
Heirloom potatoes (sweet and normal)
soft-poached egg and kale
Victor: This was also excellent, though I see it more as a fake-vegetable dish. I mean… it has eggs—that totally makes it not a true vegetarian dish in my eyes.
Monte: The sweet potatoes looked like bacon and goshdarnit tasted even better than any bacon I’ve had. Blasphemous? Maybe. But I stand by it – the sweet potato had a crispy edge reminiscent from many a deep fried dish – but inside, the flesh was sweet and soft, like any baked sweet potato. A must-try dish for sure.
Steven: “What is the difference between a yam and a sweet potato?”
Tad: “Um… I don’t know. I never see my food before it is prepared. Dianne [my family chef] sees to the preparation at home, and at restaurants… well, I pay to not have to see my pre-cooked food.”
Monte: “There is a difference, I’m sure of it. What that difference is, I’ve not a clue.”
Moving on to desserts now!
Cucumber-and-lime sorbet with yogurt foam.
Monte: “Cucumber anything in a palate cleanser is generally a good idea. Random aside, why does Whole Foods in NYC charge $3.50 for a single cucumber? Mickey Ds will feed me 12 chicken nuggets for that much and the nuggets are much more filling.”
Tad: “Sigh…are you seriously comparing McDonald’s to Whole Foods? Where else can you get REALLY fresh food? You can taste the difference.”
[Everyone else secretly eye-rolls, not for the first time this evening]
[Tad edit: WTF? You guys were eye-rolling? I thought you were agreeing silently.]
Roasted-rice crème brûlée with apricot purée.
Monte: Think about what creme brulee tastes like. Then think about what toasted rice crispies tastes like. Now combine them. This dish of rice creme brulee is exactly as how you’d imagine. It worked really well, with the crispy sweet top and the delicate rice underneath. Apricot is really tart and prevented this dish from being overly sweet.
honey ice cream, blackberry, and candied prosciutto
Bittersweet chocolate soufflé
irish coffee ice cream
Monte: I’ve seen the first two seasons of Masterchef and both seasons featured a challenge where the chefs have to make souffle, with Ramsey and Graham Elliot both exclaiming that “It’s a dish that scares even the most talented professional chef.” Not Chef Fraser, though; this souffle was rich, soft on the inside, and airy on the out. Like a warm chocolate pillow I want to sleep on.
10C. (Steven + Tad)
Belgian-ale bread pudding
peaches, butter pecans, and corn ice cream
Tad: Very rich. Very intense. Very complex. Just like me.
Steven: I got what Tad got because he seems to know what he is doing.
Victor: I forgot to take a picture :(. However, I remember them!
-Passion fruit macarons.
-Mojito-flavored white-chocolate pieces.
-Dark chocolate with rosemary-caramel.
-Pâte de Fruits with a touch of vanilla and cocoa nib.