I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Dutch: Comfort American Food (No need to go all the way out to Brooklyn!)

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Do not be self-conscious when people constantly look over at your table while you are eating, it is most likely looks of jealousy

Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch is the most buzzed about restaurant that has opened recently, eater.com has been following the opening of the restaurant like a stock ticker. The name is short and bold and for some reason the name, “The Dutch” sounds like a blunt to me or an herb of questionable legality, but then again not everyone can have such lawless acquaintances as I have. Carmellini starting in the Bouloud kitchen and then establishing himself in Italian fare with his success at A Voce and his first restaurant Locanda Verde and with his track record, many thought the Dutch would be another Italian joint but he flips it and goes with American comfort influenced cuisine.

Where do you get these pictures from?

The space and d├ęcor of the Dutch certainly fits the bill of American influence with the wood paneled walls and black and white photos, it feels like a chic version of the 21 Club. Walking in, I feel I should know things like, horseracing and the current price of gold but the nonetheless, despite the closeness of the tables the dining room is spacious and comfortable enough. Although the Dutch has been classified as comfort American and initial impressions all point to Americana, the food strays, especially the dinner menu from what you would expect. 

Jalapeno Cornbread- Not quite Southern, not quite Yankee

After taking in the space and ordering, we were presented with a small loaf of fresh and warm jalapeno cornbread with salted whipped butter. The cornbread is a fusion of Southern and “Yankee” cornbread in which the cornbread was not sweet that is typical of Yankee cornbread and had more savory notes like Southern cornbread but texturally, the cornbread was soft and quick bread-like, Yankee style. Although the cornbread was a tad dry and crumbly it tasted fine although I had to employ a pinching method in order to eat it without making a complete crumbly mess. 

Small Oyster Sandwiches- I'll take 5 more

The snack menu is not to be overlooked and we ordered the oyster sandwiches and the playfully dubbed Asian (it would have been funny if it was spelled, “AZN”) white boy ribs. The Oyster sandwiches are reason enough to even stop by here and a good omen for the rest of the meal. A nice ode to the oyster po boys of the South, the oyster was plump and juicy and had a great crispy crunchy shell thanks to the cornmeal batter. The sauce is a tangy pickled okra sauce which is reminiscent of a remoulade and worked magically with the oysters. The White boy ribs were less successful; an order of the Asian white boy ribs came with 2 ribs and a black lacquered glaze of hosin and heavy on the black bean. The ribs although were tender, they were grayish looking and seemed like they were boiled and had that musty Chinese medicinal taste that I was all too familiar with. 

Asian White Boy Ribs- wait..a TwinkieRib?

Since we got the snacks we decided to get one of the appetizers and we went with the Asparagus Okonomiyaki. An okonomiyaki is a Japanese street food composed of egg and flour pancake/omelets that is filled basically with anything, but usually either pork, shrimp and topped with mayonnaise and an okonomiyaki sauce, which taste like a tangy Worcestershire sauce. 

Asparagus Okonomiyaki

The dish was spears of asparagus, topped with a poached egg under bonito flakes and swimming in an okonomiyaki-esque sauce. The asparagus was surrounded by chunks of pork belly and fried pieces of shrimp. Although all the parts of the dish were cooked well, the dish seemed forced and except of the bonito flakes and sauce, it did not remind me, even if I closed my eyes and focused really hard of an okonomiyaki.
For my main I got the Pecan Duck that was served on a bed of wild rice and pecans and topped with celery shavings. Since duck is the new pork, I am happy it is getting the attention it deserves and liked that I was actually asked how I like the duck breast to be cooked. The duck was cooked to a nice medium rare and the wild rice was rich and saucy. The addition of crushed pecans brought an extra welcomed crunch and meatiness. The spices in the dish were warm and earthy and had a bit of a smokiness that made me think of Latin or Southwest flavors. 

Pecan Duck- Duck is the new pork, like really dark meat pork

The other main that we got was the Sea Bass, in a mussel lemongrass curry, vegetables and crushed peanuts. The curry was resembled more a broth but had the same spice and flavor intensity as a curry. The lightness of the curry not only tasted great in the summer heat, it paired perfectly with the crisp vegetables and the still flaky sea bass. 

Black Sea Bass, Thai Lemongrass Curry

Though the portions were generous, dessert at the Dutch is something that you need to save room for or force the limits of your stomach. Pastry Chef Kierin Baldwin is a padawan of Karen DeMasco and learned well and I could easily just come here just for the desserts. The pies are the popular options here as they change with seasonality but the regular desserts are something that should not be missed as well.

Devil's Food Cake, White Russian Ice Cream

From the regular dessert menu we got the Devil’s food cake with black pepper boiled icing and served with a smear of fudge sauce and a White Russian ice cream. The Devil food cake was the kind of cake that you dream about, moist with layers of chocolate frosting and a chocolate cookie base and the black pepper icing accented the already perfect cake. The fudge sauce was bittersweet, balancing the sweetness of the dessert and paired with the White Russian ice cream, I really did not want to share this. They had two pies that day and we went with the peach pie that had raspberry syrup and a scoop of buttermilk ice cream. The peach filling was sweetly in tune and the raspberry sauce with the buttermilk ice cream brought a cool and refreshing sourness to the pie. The crust of the pie was tender and buttery and worthy of the hype and attention that it has been getting since opening. 

Peach Pie, Buttermilk Ice Cream just as American as Apple Pie

If you are expecting the typical American comfort food of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese or burgers and fries you are in for a surprise. Carmellini is doing American comfort food, but doing it cleverly. He recognizes that America is actually defined by the multiple cultures and their cuisines which from Chinese to Mexican and if anything, he is doing comfort flavors in which the food are reminiscent of places and foods that you may have had in the past or elsewhere in the country. If you want something closer to comfort food or “Brooklynese” then I would suggest the late night or the brunch menu in which his burger and fried chicken is featured. The hype and attention of the Dutch is well warranted, even with flaws in certain dishes the food taste great and executed well and the vast array of flavors and cuisines showcased at the Dutch is a solid contemporary take on American comfort food.

The Dutch
131 Sullivan Street (Literally at the Corner of Sullivan and Prince)
New York, NY 10012-3043

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