Wednesday, January 30, 2008


103 W. 77th St (Columbus Ave.)

The menu at Dovetail is an attention-grabber from top to bottom. Chef John Fraser, formerly of Compass and Snack Taverna, clearly has an eye to keeping diners’ tastebuds awake and alive. We started with clam chowder with chorizo, potatoes, and Manila clams. In a series of events that was entirely new to me, this turned out to be a thick, creamy soup that was poured into a bowl of clams, chorizo, and potatoes, thus rendering it clam chowder. It was tasty, if unusually assembled. The Brussels sprout leaves with pears, Serrano ham, cauliflower, sunflower seeds, and some sort of truffley mayonnaise were an unexpectedly delicious find. The sweetness of the pears and saltiness of the Serrano were beautifully matched. Diminutive and tender, I think that Brussels sprout leaves are poised to be the next great baby salad green; you heard it here first. The pistachio-crusted duck with endive, celery root, and truffles was declared edible perfection. The meat was cooked to just-right consistency, its flavor lent additional depth by the earthy accompaniments.

A couple minutes after the dessert menu arrived, a well dressed man who had not previously visited our table approached and asked if we had any questions about dessert. “Bring it on,” was my reply. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “careful what you wish for”? Indeed. For shortly after, he brought us not only the two we had ordered, but a third in addition. “You said to bring it on,” he said, “and so here’s our brioche bread pudding for you as well.” The chocolate hazelnut strudel was rich and delicate, the almond soufflĂ© tart delectable, and the bread pudding downright odd. The body of the dish was well constructed and by-the-book, but it sat in a pool of bacon-flavored caramel. I am as culinarily adventuresome as the next girl—and likely more so—but I do believe there is such a thing as going too far. Maple syrup on my morning pork products is a winner, but when something claims to be dessert and is swathed in unmistakable just doesn’t work for me.

So yes, creativity can be taken beyond where it reasonably should. I nearly chose the beef cheek and sirloin lasagna for my main course, but ended up deciding against it. Somebody at the next table ordered it, and the server actually said: “I just want to make sure you know that there’s no pasta in the lasagna.” This wasn’t part of the description on the menu. Lasagna without pasta? Without warning? That’s crazy talk.

Overall, though, the food at Dovetail is great. They also serve afternoon tea, complete with such sweet and savory nibbles as cured salmon and Meyer lemon crepes...and foie gras Rice Krispy treats. And really, maybe I’m just a food prude; what combination could be better than a little organ meat and marshmallow?

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