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fresh.

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I enjoyed the review. Is "Kobe tuna" simply a marketing attempt to rank their tuna alongside "Kobe beef" in terms of exclusivity and price ? I've never heard of it before.

I actually paused and reread this again. "Kobe Tuna" is has to be a play on Kobe beef. Even the majority of tuna eaten in Japan doesn't even come from Japanese territorial waters, most of it is from the Indian Ocean. I also have never heard this word before and the thought of eating something that came out of the waters near Kobe......


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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What put me off at Fresh was its trying to appeal to the Gotham Bar & Grill crowd and the Pearl's Oyster House and Mary's Fish Camp camp at the same time. Not that this is a major fault in and of itself, but it indicates the wishy-washy nature of the operation--from its lack of clear direction of the cuisine to the blandness of the interior and the matter-of-factness of the service (although we did have a very good waitress who had an excellent grasp of the food). Even so, they couldn't even make a passable version of fish and chips (deep fried and breaded haddock with French fries, which my termed "disgusting and inedible). However, her New England clam chowder was excellent. I liked the "Kobe" tuna (made that day with blue fin instead of yellow tail) and it was cooked the way our waitress alerted me it would be: medium. I have problems with Mary's Fish Camp in terms of having to wait for a table due to their "no reservations" policy. Yet, inspite of a more limited selection of dishes, the barebones decor and the lack of elbow room, I find myself going back there regularly, which is a lot more than I could say for Fresh.

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(made that day with blue fin instead of yellow tail)

Very nitpicky note: Yellowtail is hamachi, not tuna. I think you're talking about yellowfin as the lesser tuna to bluefin.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I think if Fresh was trying to be a cross between Gotham Bar & Grill and Mary's Fish Camp/Pearl Oyster Bar then it would be a fine place. The problem is that it has thrown Canteen into the mix by trying to appeal to the downtown model crowd. I suspect that if the place becomes really trendy, then you will see them abandon all pretense that they are trying to serve top quality food. But if the trendy crowd abandons the place you will see them try to improve the quality of the food to attract a more serious diner. And if it doesn't catch on with neither crowd it will fold.

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I'm just back from Fresh and I found many comments here to be exceptionally on target foodwise, allowing for some variation.

I had the foie and halibut-cheeks and it was lousy as Eric Asimov promised it would be (note to Asimov: the romesco is still there) -- both items were overcooked (the foie was barely pink at dead center and brown all the way through everywhere else, and halibut cheeks are not supposed to taste like overcooked skate; I had some in Canada recently and they were luscious and fatty and tasted like their own unique thing) and there was nothing going on. Just, as you said (or the reverse of what you said, actually) a piece of foie on top of a piece of halibut cheek. Big deal. There was an accompanying plum that seemed irrelevant and a couple of drops of some sort of balsamic thing, also unimportant. Also a small portion, as were all portions, which makes the prices seem less gentle than they seem upon first look at the menu.

The fried Ipswich clams (I should note this on the clam thread) were terrific examples of fried clams, though again the parsimoniousness of the portion was absurd. The two best appetizers were the crabmeat gazpacho with avocado, Sherry vinegar, and a little heat from peppers; and the ceviche, which combined a number of fish that I can't remember. The New England lobster roll was also quite good though you'd get laughed out of New England for selling this roll at this price.

At that point in the meal I was figuring that maybe all these defects were symptomatic of new-restaurantness, a phenomenon to which I think many of the comments on this thread have failed to give sufficient weight. However, upon tasting the "Kobe" tuna (which is in quotes on the menu), I started to think that the chef simply has a problem with his palate. What's up with this dish? It's a train wreck; the last thing I'd want to make into my signature dish. The waiters are programmed to recommend it medium or medium-well, which is just a bad idea, but I went with the medium just to give the kitchen a chance to prove its philosophy. Yuck. The fattiness of the tuna remains but all the flavor is cooked out. The daikon contributes nothing. The garlic rice had potential but my sample had burnt garlic in it so it had that smoldering plastic taste.

The haddock fish-and-chips (with roasted potatoes, not chips) was totally defective: Over-breaded and dry. The fennel coleslaw accompanying it was nice, though.

The only entrée I thought was superb was the bouillabaisse, which was correct and benefited from the addition of a wider variety of fish than you'd typically see.

Desserts were much better than the meal, with two chocolate-oriented winners: A trio of chocolate-espresso ice cream, a little chocolate tart, and a steamed torte-type thing; and a caramel, hazelnut, and chocolate-banana stack that was gorgeously bitter. I noticed the pastry chef is also listed as an owner.

I don't know about all this analysis of the restaurant being trendy and that affecting the quality. I think it's just a combination of newness and bad judgment on the chef's part. The waitstaff seemed to be at the right place on the learning curve and I thought it was an attractive place.

Note that the official spelling is:

Fresh.

That's with the period, even in the middle of sentences.

Also you can call the restaurant and they'll ship you raw fish anywhere in America. This is no doubt tied into the part-ownership of Eric from EMS (Early Morning Seafood), who is a terrific guy with whom I once spent an evening/morning at the Fulton Fish Market -- and despite the weakness of some of the dishes at Fresh I certainly thought the fish was all top notch. I have some thoughts on this ownership structure and market orientation as part of a larger trend that I'll put together another time.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I should have thought that the bouillabaisse was the most difficult of those dishes to get right. What a disappointment. And does anyone actually say Fresh. like that in the middle of a sentence?

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I should have thought that the bouillabaisse was the most difficult of those dishes to get right.

If you've had professional training you should be able to make basic repertoire dishes like bouillabaisse without screwing them up. It's not a hard dish -- the difficulties come more from the mess and the amount and variety of product you need than from any inherent complexity. It's one of those things that's a lot easier to do in a restaurant than at home. So while the typical professional cook may not make the world's best, that person should be able to get a kitchen geared up to produce a correct version. But when you go off and design your own dishes, well, there's nothing they teach you in culinary school that can help you if you just can't design a good dish. That's why most chefs are better off sticking with what has been done before, with minor modifications, rather than trying to create new dishes out of whole cloth like this "Kobe" tuna with daikon mush and burnt-garlic rice nonsense.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Took myself to fresh. (as it says on the charge slip) on Friday. My report:

Arrived about 7:40. Was a bit put-off by the "fishy" smell (not as in FRESH fish, but as in fishy). Presented self to hostess with my usual statement: "One for dinner, no reservation."

"How many?"

"One, I said."

"We serve a full menu at the bar." Gender bias alert? :hmmm: (hereafter referred to as GBA?

"I'd prefer a table."

"There'll be a little wait, about 15 minutes."

"Fine." (Note: I could see 3 or 4 empty deuces and a couple of empty 4-tops but I figured they might be reserved for 7:45 or 8; so it didn't bother me.)

Left my name with her, and went to the bar. Sat at the far end, the better to watch the kitchen. Bar not quite fully occupied. One guy eating there. Three bartenders, two of whom finished tasks and stood, arms crossed, leaning against the back bar. Not making eye contact. Several minutes passed, during which they went back to working, but still did not acknowledge me. GBA?) Eventually one did notice me, and apologized. My question: "Do you have any dry sherries?"

"Any (mumble mumble)?"

"Dry sherry."

"We have Dry Sack."

"No, DRY sherry."

"??????"

So I had a martini. She had to ask again to confirm that I wanted olives.

EXACTLY 15 minutes after I left my name, the hostess came to get me. I was seated on a banquette, in the midst of occupied 4- and 2-tops, with a good view of most of the room, and of the half-wall alongside the stairs to below. Well, as good a view as one might have in such a dimly-lit place.

My waiter, who looked about 15, was pretty good at answering my menu questions. Although he had trouble at first understanding that I wanted to order a different glass of wine with each course GBA? I thought it was hysterical when he started off with "We don't have any specials; we consider all our dishes special." I'm sure the "rillettes of arcadian gaspy [sic] cod and finnan haddie" is; but I felt bad for that poor cod who died of suffocation.

I ate/drank:

Sea urchin and Iranian caviar in fennel broth/Veuve Cliquot nv

Broth a bit heavy on orange flavor and light on the fennel, although there was fennel brunoise; just a hint of cream; a touch of raw shallot that jarred; caviar added a saline note, and the urchins were truly fresh and delightful. Served in an urchin shell balanced on salt -- simple, nice.

Whole roasted dayboat flounder with soy & ginger & garlic & scallion; jasmine rice; baby bok choy/Highfield NZ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Again, the fish was impeccably fresh; but just barely the right side of being overcooked -- must have been roasted at a very high temperature, since the skin almost seemed fried. Cooked and served head-off but otherwise on the bone. The soy etc. was EXTREMELY strong, a bit too much for the delicate fish. The many slices of garlic were also just almost overdone. (So I guess they still have that same problem as others noted earlier.) The jasmine rice and bok choy were absolutely plain so overall the dish worked out, but milder sauce would have been better with the fish.

Autumn Salad of Granny Smith apple, greens, Roquefort, and pecans/Robert Pinskey Pinot Noir

Greens were frisée, watercress, radicchio, and endive. Apple slices, nuts, and cheese were placed on plate first, then dressed leaves on top. Much better that way, than when everything gets dressed and tossed together. Well-balanced dressing in the right amount, with sufficient salt (another of my peeves). Very pleasant, but not necessarily worth $10.

BTW: the bread was just a simple country loaf. Nothing special. I did appreciate that when I asked the floor manager who was clearing the table after my main to please leave the bread, she did. And she brought back the menu and took my salad-and-wine order, which the waiter brought.

No dessert, just green tea -- the sorbet flavors originally offered were not available after all. Seems a bit late in the year for litchee, anyway.

By 9:30 there was a huge crowd at the bar (which had emptied out soon after I was seated). Not all that "trendy" looking to me, but I don't frequent trendy places much so what do I know? However, the deuces on either side of me, and the 4-top further along the wall, were all empty. ???? They were filled before I left, though.

General observations:

- LOUD!!!! There was some "music" when I first got there, but it was turned off (hostess said someone asked that it be cut).

- Nice aquatic color scheme, but DIM, and made darker as the evening progressed. It's a good thing I always carry a mini-flashlight. Last time I was in the space it was Pierino, so the difference was dramatic (I blinked, so I missed David Ruggiero's steak place.)

- Front-of-house seems to take the team approach -- whoever passed the table cleared, and other than one busser I recognized from elsewhere, it was difficult to tell the difference between waiters, runners, and bussers. And a BIG plus: not all the servers are 20-year-old models. Some actually looked like they might be professionals!

- Did not check out the restrooms.

- Even though the menu is now organized in a standard manner, the wine list is divided into Coastal/Hillside/Inland. A bit precious, to my mind. And no 1/2s. :sad:

Bill was $112.50 before tax.

Another place where I might go back, but only EARLY to avoid the noise. In spite of my first olfactory impression, the fish -- and other ingredients -- were in fact VERY "fresh."

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Suzanne, I enjoyed your post. May I ask a couple of questions on the gender bias alert (gba). How would you distinguish this from poor service? I think Wilfrid has been to a handful of places and been refused a table when a single diner; bars where I've been in mixed company have been slow to serve us, and asking for pairing of wines and course might not be that usual and the puzzlement on part of wait staff might have little to do with bias related to sex of diner. Just wondering.

Related to the fishy smell: Although all of your fish tasted fresh, what did you make of the odor??

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Thanks, Steven, and thanks Yvonne. To answer Yvonne's Q's:

I meant the GBA? (sm) as a bit of a joke. People can be so touchy about poor service -- not seeing it for what it is, as you've pointed out. More likely that sort of thing is the result of bad policies, poor training, or just plain stupidity (assuming good policies and training).

As for the smell: IMO, they simply need to clean the place better. Not that anything seemed dirty -- but a lingering odor like that could have been coming up from the prep area. I only noticed it at the door, near the head of the stairs. Never made it downstairs to poke around, though.

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