Sunday, 8 September 2013

New York Series - Colicchio and Sons the Tap Room

It was getting towards the end of our holiday in New York and we had ticked off all of the restaurants that I had researched and wanted to visit.  Of course this didn't mean we had visited all of the  best restaurants, it just meant that we had to get back to the drawing board and get a new list of great dining spots to visit.  We were still in our apartment in Chelsea, which opened up most of the West Side districts to continue to explore.

It was SC who had the idea of visiting Colicchio and Sons one afternoon when we were a bit stumped for a restaurant to enjoy for a dinner.  Once she mentioned the Tom Colicchio restaurant, I got pretty excited.  We are big fans of Top Chef and Colicchio is the main judge on the show, so we felt as if we knew much about the Colicchio vision about food.  It was time to put the vision to the test, so we quickly made a booking for later on that night and proceeded to make our way to the restaurant.

Colicchio and Sons is located on 10th Avenue, just behind the Chelsea Markets and was a relatively short 20 minute walk away from our apartment on the corner of West 25th and 9th.  Amazingly, after such fantastic weather for our first three weeks in Manhattan that included a heat wave, the rain had settled in, so we had to huddle under an umbrella on the way to the restaurant.  When we eventually arrived at the restaurant, we were a little wet, but the staff didn't seem to mind and welcomed us in warmly.

Unlike some celebrity restaurants, where the chef can still be seen in the kitchen (WD50), we didn't expect that Tom would actually be in the Colicchio and Sons restaurant to cook our meals.  Nowadays, Tom is more of a restaurateur and TV celebrity, but this is based on the back of hard work which has seen the Colicchio empire expand. Learning to master his 'craft', Colicchio spent time in some of New York's best restaurants including the Quilted Giraffe, Gotham Bar and Grill and Mondrain.  In 1994, Colicchio opened the very well known Gramercy Tavern with Danny Meyer and after critical success  there opened up his signature restaurant Craft in 2001.  His brand has significantly expanded since that time and Colicchio now owns restaurants across America and is seen regularly on TV with his own shows.

After being seated at our table, we were introduced to perhaps the best and friendliest water in New York, and by extension of that possibly the whole world.  This guy was amazing, he made us feel so welcome and at home and was so engaging and interesting that we were gobsmacked.  This was a person who took his job very seriously, so much so that it must have been his calling.  We were given our menus and some lovely warm bread rolls with equally lovely and soft butter to munch on while we decided on what we would eat.  Our waiter also contributed by telling us what was good and helped us with our choices for our dinner.

By this time of the holiday, we had been eating a lot of very lovely food and decided that we would only  have two courses and mains and dessert sounded great.  The menu had a number of amazing looking options, so choosing was difficult, but we finally settled on a couple of mains.  SC was very excited about the Ricotta Cavatelli with Lobster with Corn and Asiago and once the pasta dish was delivered, knew she had picked a winner.  Cavatelli pasta are small rolled pasta shells that look like miniature hotdog buns and were perfect for soaking up the lovely corn and lobster chunks.  There was a generous helping of lobster, that was succulent and delicious and the pasta was a perfect al dente.  If there was to be a minor complaint, it would be that the dish was bordering on being too salty, which wasn't helped by the addition of the asiago cheese.  It was right on the edge, but was still lovely.

It's interesting dining at a Colicchio restaurant after watching the man and hearing much about his food philosophy on TV.  Watching the master-chef provide feedback, and sometimes grill, young chefs on TV about seasoning provided some insight that seasoning is important and I couldn't agree more. There is nothing worse than underseasoned food.  I wonder if this has had a slightly negative impact on some of the food produced in his restaurants.  I ordered the Coffee Rubbed Brisket with Potato Purée and Pickled Cabbage, which was also perfectly cooked, but bordering on being over seasoned.  The brisket was everything you want from beef, it easily broke apart upon a mere touch of a fork and was full of flavour.  The red cabbage was a wonderful match for the brisket and the jus that surrounded the expertly cooked potato puree was rich and full of meaty flavour.  I just found it to be a little too salty, and I love salty beef.  Not enough to detract from the meal, but certainly a little heavy handed.

Both the main courses that we ordered were lovely and were large sizes, so we were happy that we didn't get starters as well.  The dessert menu had offered a large number of delicious looking options and SC chose the chocolate fondant with honeycomb and cherries.  It was the middle of cherry season while we were in New York, so it was unsurprising to see lovely fresh looking cherries on the plate. The chocolate fondant was cooked to perfection and had a gooey centre that started to ooze once you cut into the outer crust.  There was great flavours and textures with the dessert and the honeycomb and chocolate worked wonderfully together.

I was in the mood for berries and the Raspberry Lemon Tart with a Raspberry soda and Raspberry Stracciatella Ice Cream seemed like just the right choice.  The dessert ran the risk of being disconnected, with three individual components on the plate, but the dish was saved by simply adding some syrup to connect the pieces.  The tart was incredible, with extremely short pastry and sweet yet tart lemon curd under fresh berries.  The raspberry ice cream was sharp and sweet also, so there was a good balance of flavours on the plate.  I could have taken or left the raspberry soda, but then again, I'm not a big soda drinker.

We had a fabulous meal at the Colicchio and Sons Tap Room, which was the more casual part of the restaurant (there is a formal dining room available also).  The food was very delicious and really flavoursome but the mains both bordered on being too salty.  Is this a problem?  Not really as you could also argue that the seasoning was just right, depending on your tastes, but just a pinch more in each dish would have been a disaster.

A large part of the reason why we had such a wonderful time was the incredibly welcoming staff and in particular our waiter for the evening.  He picked up that we were from Australia and seemed genuinely interested in finding out more about us and what we were up to.  This really under sells the value we felt from our waiter and I really think that Colicchio and Sons should count itself lucky to have such a great guy working for them.  After we had paid we were given one last item, a couple of Colicchio and Sons muffins for us to take home and eat later, an extra special treat!

Unfortunately it was time for us to leave the restaurant, and worse, it was getting towards the end of our holiday.  We had to go back out into the rain to head back to our apartment and the gloomy weather matched the feeling that our holiday would soon be over.  Something great happened on the way back to the apartment.  As SC and I huddled together under the umbrella to keep ourselves dry, we realised that the holiday was not over yet and that we still had time to do some amazing things.  It was all a matter of perspective and we then chose to be happy about our time in Manhattan and the adventure that was still to be had.

The Colicchio and Sons muffin for us to take home and have later.  As it turns out SC at both of them for breakfast over the next couple of days
A romantic candle at our table and some really soft butter for our warm and tasty bread
Wood for the wood fired oven used to cook much of the food
As usual, we arrived early so there were a few tables available.  The restaurant quickly filled up
There was a great industrial feel to the building, which looked to be a converted warehouse.  There was also a well stocked bar that SC took advantage of
Colicchio & Sons on Urbanspoon

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