Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Fat Guy

Loft

Recommended Posts

Angelo Sosa -- formerly involved in Yumcha, Jean Georges, Spice Market, Buddakan and others -- has recently taken over the kitchen (his title is "consulting chef") at Loft, the year-old restaurant on Columbus Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets. The restaurant opened with little culinary interest, but has hired Sosa in an attempt to go in a new direction.

Sosa's presence at an Upper West Side (really the Upper West Side, not the Midtown North extension that includes Time Warner, Jean Georges and Picholine) restaurant made me take notice. I recently accepted an invitation to a tasting of his new menu, and found the food to be boldly creative not just by the standards of its neighborhood but by the standards of any neighborhood in the world.

The restaurant is self-consciously downtown. It's supposed to evoke a SoHo or TriBeCa-type lounge space and it does. And there are a few dishes I tried that are worth a trip from downtown -- plus one that's worth a trip from Saturn.

Sosa has chosen to express himself with powerful spice combinations -- not spice as in heat (though there is heat in some dishes) but rather spice as in fenugreek, dill, mustard seed, mint and cumin. The primary set of flavors is Middle Eastern, though there are plenty of Asian influences (not surprising given Sosa's background and preferences) as well as general international and local components of the menu. Even the house-baked rolls that come out at the beginning of the meal are robustly spiced.

The best dish on the menu comes in a square, squat Mason jar. It contains poached lobster and an egg (from the Union Square greenmarket) in a fresh mace (not sure I'd ever had fresh mace before) and fenugreek broth scented with a little soy sauce and Thai chili. The broken egg yolk runs into the broth and around the lobster chunks to form a luscious sauce. It's incredible -- one of the best dishes I've sampled in 2006 at any restaurant. It's $30, which may be a high price for the neighborhood (that's near the upper end of the range for the Loft menu) but is low for an haute-cuisine dish of this quality.

The other two items I felt were really extraordinary are both from the $80 four-course Wagyu/hookah menu: First, a Taiwanese egg (infused, hard-cooked and peeled), served in a broth of chicken stock with pancetta, star anise, cardamom and "Saigon cinnamon." Once you eat the egg, you drink the broth like tea. I could easily imagine dropping in and having one of these at the bar as a fortifying winter hot beverage -- not that it's offered that way (though one could ask I suppose). Second, a Wagyu steak (I've seen a few menus with different cuts, the one I had was a ribeye) crusted with four different peppers (black Madagascar peppercorns, Turkish peppercorns, chipotle peppers and white peppercorns) and Himalayan rock salt. According to the printed menu those two items are served together, as course number three on the hookah menu.

A couple of other dishes were quite good: sauteed foie gras with kabocha squash and cumin; tuna "mole," basically a tuna tartare with avocado, tapioca and bitter chocolate. One dish, which I though was not Sosa's best work but is apparently one of the restaurant's best sellers (I can see why -- it's good lounge food) consists of thin slices of Wagyu beef on a flatbread with crumbled Roquefort, white truffle vinaigrette and mixed greens.

I don't believe there's a pastry chef installed. The one dessert we tried -- chocolate hazelnut dumplings with white truffle froth -- was delicious, though.

The cocktail and wine programs at the restaurant seem to be as ambitious as the culinary program. We tried some of the recommended hookah-menu wine pairings and they were not only smart but also, like the food, at the edge of the flavor spectrum. For example, the 2005 Tesch Reisling St. Remigiusberg, served with the tuna, is bone dry. (The wine pairings with the hookah menu are $45).


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)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Steven,

The lobster and egg dish sounds fascinating. Is the egg poached as well? I assume the diner breaks the yolk and not the chef.

This sounds as if it would work with scallops as well. Poached scallops are rare in restaurants, but my experiments with them have been well received.

Rich


Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The lobster and egg dish sounds fascinating. Is the egg poached as well? I assume the diner breaks the yolk and not the chef.

Correct.


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)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I assume the diner breaks the yolk and not the chef.

Unless he tries to prevent the coat check from returning your items.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had a meal there about a month ago which was not nearly as memorable as the one Fat Guy had. Angelo Sosa was already installed as consulting chef (one of our party knows him well). We were sent a variety of food, all of which was either over seasoned or fairly unmemorable. I had the mason jar lobster, and while I loved the presentation, found it difficult to get all the food out of the jar.

I really wanted to like the experience, because we were being comped some food, and a drink or two, but the service was so atrocious, and the food so completely unmemorable, I probably won't go back. (Although Fat Guy's review makes me question my decision).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think when you use such assertive spicing you're taking a risk: a percentage of your customers are going to find the food repellently over-spiced. You really have to be a huge fan of spices, and not everybody is. That may very well force a menu change -- very few restaurants, no less on the Upper West Side, are going to push that hard on so many dishes unless they're specifically destinations for chef-driven cuisine. But for now, I think for folks who like this style of food, where spices are almost a main ingredient (Sosa is actually in the process of constructing a "spice lab"), may find a lot to like at Loft.


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)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I assume the diner breaks the yolk and not the chef.

Unless he tries to prevent the coat check from returning your items.

Hey, I haven't broken a chef in six months - unless you count those body parts that were recently found on Staten Island.

Steve - please explain the reference to his "spice lab."


Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think when you use such assertive spicing you're taking a risk: a percentage of your customers are going to find the food repellently over-spiced. You really have to be a huge fan of spices, and not everybody is. That may very well force a menu change -- very few restaurants, no less on the Upper West Side, are going to push that hard on so many dishes unless they're specifically destinations for chef-driven cuisine. But for now, I think for folks who like this style of food, where spices are almost a main ingredient (Sosa is actually in the process of constructing a "spice lab"), may find a lot to like at Loft.

If I didn't know better, I'd think you were advising people who like assertively spiced food not to wait a year to visit this restaurant.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Angelo Sosa -- formerly involved in Yumcha, Jean Georges, Spice Market, Buddakan and others -- has recently taken over the kitchen (his title is "consulting chef") at Loft, the year-old restaurant on Columbus Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets. The restaurant opened with little culinary interest, but has hired Sosa in an attempt to go in a new direction.

Sosa's presence at an Upper West Side (really the Upper West Side, not the Midtown North extension that includes Time Warner, Jean Georges and Picholine) restaurant made me take notice. I recently accepted an invitation to a tasting of his new menu, and found the food to be boldly creative not just by the standards of its neighborhood but by the standards of any neighborhood in the world.

The restaurant is self-consciously downtown. It's supposed to evoke a SoHo or TriBeCa-type lounge space and it does. And there are a few dishes I tried that are worth a trip from downtown -- plus one that's worth a trip from Saturn.

Sosa has chosen to express himself with powerful spice combinations -- not spice as in heat (though there is heat in some dishes) but rather spice as in fenugreek, dill, mustard seed, mint and cumin. The primary set of flavors is Middle Eastern, though there are plenty of Asian influences (not surprising given Sosa's background and preferences) as well as general international and local components of the menu. Even the house-baked rolls that come out at the beginning of the meal are robustly spiced.

The best dish on the menu comes in a square, squat Mason jar. It contains poached lobster and an egg (from the Union Square greenmarket) in a fresh mace (not sure I'd ever had fresh mace before) and fenugreek broth scented with a little soy sauce and Thai chili. The broken egg yolk runs into the broth and around the lobster chunks to form a luscious sauce. It's incredible -- one of the best dishes I've sampled in 2006 at any restaurant. It's $30, which may be a high price for the neighborhood (that's near the upper end of the range for the Loft menu) but is low for an haute-cuisine dish of this quality.

The other two items I felt were really extraordinary are both from the $80 four-course Wagyu/hookah menu: First, a Taiwanese egg (infused, hard-cooked and peeled), served in a broth of chicken stock with pancetta, star anise, cardamom and "Saigon cinnamon." Once you eat the egg, you drink the broth like tea. I could easily imagine dropping in and having one of these at the bar as a fortifying winter hot beverage -- not that it's offered that way (though one could ask I suppose). Second, a Wagyu steak (I've seen a few menus with different cuts, the one I had was a ribeye) crusted with four different peppers (black Madagascar peppercorns, Turkish peppercorns, chipotle peppers and white peppercorns) and Himalayan rock salt. According to the printed menu those two items are served together, as course number three on the hookah menu.

A couple of other dishes were quite good: sauteed foie gras with kabocha squash and cumin; tuna "mole," basically a tuna tartare with avocado, tapioca and bitter chocolate. One dish, which I though was not Sosa's best work but is apparently one of the restaurant's best sellers (I can see why -- it's good lounge food) consists of thin slices of Wagyu beef on a flatbread with crumbled Roquefort, white truffle vinaigrette and mixed greens.

I don't believe there's a pastry chef installed. The one dessert we tried -- chocolate hazelnut dumplings with white truffle froth -- was delicious, though.

The cocktail and wine programs at the restaurant seem to be as ambitious as the culinary program. We tried some of the recommended hookah-menu wine pairings and they were not only smart but also, like the food, at the edge of the flavor spectrum. For example, the 2005 Tesch Reisling St. Remigiusberg, served with the tuna, is bone dry. (The wine pairings with the hookah menu are $45).

I completely agree with your praise. I have eaten at Loft 3 times now and the food has been consistently unique, creative, and incredibly delicious. Angelo Sosa is a cut above the wonderful chefs of Manhattan. He deserves far more notoriety than so far received. My only complaint with Loft is the service, which has been consistently irritatingly inattentive and slow. Mr. Sosa's creations deserve much more respect than that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If I didn't know better, I'd think you were advising people who like assertively spiced food not to wait a year to visit this restaurant.

Run! Don't walk!


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)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think when you use such assertive spicing you're taking a risk: a percentage of your customers are going to find the food repellently over-spiced. You really have to be a huge fan of spices, and not everybody is.

I didn't object to the assertive use of spices, I objected to the assertive use of salt and truffle oil, both of which overpowered much of what I ate.

But I will be a good sport and give Loft another chance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...