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John Dory

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I checked out the recently opened John Dory, the english seafood pub from the Spotted Pig team. I was excited to check out the new hot spot, but it exceeded my expectations. It may not be to everyone's liking, but I quite enjoyed the eclectic decor. It was the food that blew me away though. We had a group of 4, and concentrated mostly on the apps and raw bar, partly because it would let us try more things but mostly because they were more exciting to us.

We actually got all 5 crudos and both the oysters and langoustines from the raw bar. The oysters were top notch, but the langoustine was perhaps the best one I've ever had. I'm typically disappointed by langoustines because they are rarely quite as good as they look to me, but this one was much better, perfectly succulent and tender with a delicious aioli to dip the pieces in. All the crudos were excellent. The steak tartare was nothing special, but the real standout was the razor clam ceviche. Supremely fresh and sweet and tender with just the right acidity.

I was at first disappointed because I had seen on their website the opening menu had cod milt, which I had never tried and was looking forward to, and it was not on the menu presented to us. Luckily it was a verbal special, so I jumped at that. It was very different than I expected, and much better. It reminded me of sweetbreads in texture with a delicate flavor, with a nice salty sauce with capers and an acid bite.

We also got the grilled octopus app, which was very good but nothing notably different than many other nice versions I've had.

Perhaps the best thing of the night was the oyster pan roast with crostini with uni butter. This dish was more of a soup or bisque than I had expected, with several plump oysters in the broth, but man was it good. Very rich but silky smooth and with vermouth I think that kept it very balanced. Mmm, yeah, definitely the highlight no that I'm thinking back and remembering it as I type.

WE got two entrees, the black pepper dungeness crab and the squid stuffed with chorizo. The crab was tasty but messy (they did warn us) with the very peppery sauce all over the outside of the unshelled crab. It reminded me of dishes I had in Hong Kong. Probably my favorite of the two entrees. The squid was solid as well, stuffed with a saffron rice as well as the chorizo. I enjoyed both entrees very much, but the real strengths were the starters we had.

I suppose the prices are not very cheap, but the quality of the ingredients are very high. I suspect whenever I am in the neighborhood I will pop in and get a seat at the bar and revisit the raw dishes and the pan roast, in fact I'm sure there is no way I will be able to resist.

Also, another cool thing was that Thomas Keller and 2 others I recognized were seated at the table inches away from us. I thought about thanking him for the great offal meal I enjoyed at per se the night before, but didn't want to interrupt as he was in the middle of a story as I was leaving.


Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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as an aside, the several meals I've just posted about is not a typical week for me, just a confluence of guests in town, random special events, and reservation times I arbitrarily got.

but it was a good week.


Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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I've been looking forward to going there. Thanks for the post!

I'm a big fan of her food. I hope to get there soon and try that oyster roast.

What were the desserts like and were any good?

Were there a lot of people?

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We got there at 6 and there were only a few tables seated and a couple people at the bar, but it filled up pretty quickly after we were seated. On our way out it was full, with standing room only at the bar, presumably people waiting for tables.

For dessert they had a special spiced apple cider with whiskey sabayon and sugar cookies that we tried, and we also got the treacle pudding for two, which is more like a pudding for 4. The four of us didn't finish it. It was good, a moist spongecake with a custard poured over it at the table.


Ed aka Wordsmithing Pantagruel

Food, Cocktails, Travels, and miscellany on my blog:

http://www.wordsmithingpantagruel.com/

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I'm sure it's old news by now, but Bruni gave John Dory two stars.

I found his description of the interior quite amusing:

"A visually frantic, kaleidoscopic riff on a chowder house with an open kitchen and two dining areas divided by an enormous fish tank."

From what I've seen of the inside, I don't think he's too far of.


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I think he's also right with the rating; from my 2 dining experiences there, our favorite dishes were the oyster stew and the stuffed squid and it's not a 3-star place, imo.

Ed Levine twittered that April Bloomfield was disappointed with 2 stars. That's what Frank Bruni hath wrought with giving 3 stars to marginal places like Ssäm Bar, Matsugen and Dovetail. Now every restaurant thinks they're a 3-star candidate. Like weinoo, I thought that the John Dory was serving solid 2-star food (in the good sense—meaning "very good").
Edited by oakapple (log)

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I think he's also right with the rating; from my 2 dining experiences there, our favorite dishes were the oyster stew and the stuffed squid and it's not a 3-star place, imo.

Ed Levine twittered that April Bloomfield was disappointed with 2 stars. That's what Frank Bruni hath wrought with giving 3 stars to marginal places like Ssäm Bar, Matsugen and Dovetail. Now every restaurant thinks they're a 3-star candidate. Like weinoo, I thought that the John Dory was serving solid 2-star food (in the good sense—meaning "very good").

What did he (Bruni) give The Spotted Pig?


“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I ate at The John Dory, somewhat inadvertently, last month. Here's a short-form report (you can see and read more at the ulterior epicure).

If I were to have twittered about my dinner at The John Dory in early May, I would have allotted my 140 letters thusly:

“Top product. Pricey. Bold. Pricey. Italy-on-Thames meets aquatic Antique Roadshow. Pricey. Easy service. Pricey. Great music. Pricey. Neon.”

...

The food here is full of personality – but not too much (example: a rather pedestrian brunch menu is offered on the weekends).  The menu is a strange collision of Mediterranean and British cuisines.

Chef-patron April Bloomfield’s pedigree is evident.  Lemon, olive oil, and sea salt: The River Café’s (Hammersmith, not Brooklyn) holy trinity of seasonings – also constitute The John Dory’s holy trinity of seasonings. At The John Dory, these three ingredients appear ubiquitously, yet judiciously, leaning heavily on lemon.  Spice (as in heat) is also deployed aggressively.

Actually, flavor, generally, is deployed aggressively, which is what I appreciated most about the food at the The John Dory.  Though bland you will not find here, it’s also my biggest gripe.  Many of the dishes were unbalanced – softer flavors were back-seated to (sometimes masked completely by) acid and heat.

Don’t eat here if you’re wanting subtlety, or if you’re shy about spice.

...

The main courses were much more reasonably priced.

Two of them, the “Pan-Seared John Dory” ($28) and the “Char-Grilled Striped Bass” ($30) were excellent. Both fish were cooked well, with crispy skin.

The bass was, perhaps, my favorite dish of the evening. It was Mediterranea on a plate. The filet, sitting on a bed of softened fennel, sported a smoky, grill-charred coat. Bright flashes of preserved lemon, hot flashes of chile, and salty, meaty green olives gave this dish a dynamic and bold face.

The John Dory was easily the second-best dish of the evening. The filet came on a generous bed of tender broccoli sprouts ringed in with a flavorful salsa verde.  I couldn’t find fault with any of it.

I was torn: grilled octopus or stuffed squid?

Our server said that the “Seared Squid Stuffed with Chorizo” ($28) was their most popular dish, which was perhaps clue number one that I probably shouldn’t have ordered it. But for the past three-plus years, I’ve secretly been hounding for stuffed squid that can outperform the lobster-stuffed chiperones I had at Carré des Feuillants.

Adding, as an afterthought, that the squid had a more robust flavor than the octopus dish, the server pushed me over the fence.

The three rather large squid caps were stuffed with something akin to paella, which included small dices of chorizo. Though the flavor was quite good (especially with the fresh cilantro), I didn’t care for the texture of the stuffing: the rice was too soft and mushy, whilst the chorizo was hard – it was like tomato-seafood mush studded with hard bits of chorizo (the chorizo was particularly unmemorable).

The squid was alright, if not a touch meatier than I had expected; these were not tiny baby squid. The white runner beans under the stuffed caps were unevenly cooked,. Some were fine; many, however, were undercooked and gritty.  My quest continues.

The side dishes were the most disappointing part of the meal.  Like the starters, they were pricey.

...

The kitchen sent out the “Treacle Pudding for Two” ($20) on the house (*comp disclosure*).

“For Two” is not accurate. This epic-sized dessert was, realistically, big enough for four or five people.

Served piping HOT, already soaked with treacle, our server doused it with custard tableside.

The last time I visited this most British of British desserts was at St. John Bread & Wine. It was toothachingly sweet. This one was no different.

The John Dory’s version is much coarser (larger “holes” and heftier weight) than the one at St. John Bread & Wine, which was soft, and much finer.  It wasn’t quite “stodgy,” but it was heavy.*

Though I’ve harped on the high prices, surely, I’ve accepted more outrageous restaurant pricing before (see my recent trip to Paris and the U.K.).

The freshness and quality of the ingredients used at The John Dory were clearly very high.  In line with the m.o. at The River Cafe, I’m sure that only top crop makes it to the plate.  Coupled with its location (trendy, scenester-infested, over-the-top, Las Vegas-type restaurant row), I concede that The John Dory is justified in charging what they do.  Service was good – efficient, knowledgeable, and very friendly.  The music was great.  And, the food, overall, was solid.

I won’t be running back to The John Dory.  But I’d surely consider it again – especially for a late-night tuck, and, if for nothing else, to try their touted Oyster Pan Roast (which I didn’t order this time), and Cod Milt (which wasn’t on the menu this time).

...

* A group of young ladies (by that hour, the only other table in the house), who had just finished their meal, approached us near the end of our meal.  Having seen the giant dome arrive at our table (it's really hard to miss), they wanted to know what we thought of the treacle sponge. Expecting something closer to bread pudding, they disliked it.  I guess Italy-on-the-Thames gets lost in translation near-the-Hudson. Or in the MePa, anyway.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Any truth in the rumour The John Dory is gone and closed for good? Something happened they had to close it at short notice?

This may sound ridiculous...

Although the announcement was at short notice, the planning wasn't. This was in the works for a while. Restaurants often keep their closing plans quiet until the last minute, because suppliers might be reluctant to work with them (fearing they won't get paid), and employees might leave for other jobs, leaving the restaurant unstaffed.

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We tried John Dory Oyster Bar at the Ace Hotel last night, which serves raw bar items and small plates tapas-style, no large entrees. Expensive (oysters $3/ea all types, small plates $12-18, and you would want at least two or three per person to make a meal), but the seafood was first rate. Highlights were the oysters--two west coast and two east coast varieties on the menu--which were fresh and particularly neatly done preserving most of the liquor, the char pate served with a very buttery Parker House roll, Maine lobster chowder, and the chocolate pot for desert.

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