Address: 103 West 77th Street, New York
Dovetail is such a clever name for a restaurant, it means to join together harmoniously. Not an easy name to live up to, unless you have a proprietor/chef like John Fraser, who is said to be one of America's top up-and-coming young chef. As a chef who chose to be trained at some of the best kitchens in the world (French Laundry in Napa Valley and Taillevent in Paris to name a few) rather than attending culinary school, John's success in Dovetail proves that passion and drive (and talent of course) are extremely important in making it in the restaurant industry. His cooking style is classic European, and his food focuses on seasonal and local ingredients.
Dovetail has been generating buzz ever since its door opened more than a year ago, and it was on our to try list since the beginning and finally we went to check it out last week. I went with the 5 course lunch tasting menu ($48) while Gan had the restaurant week menu ($24.70). I was very impressed with the flavor, creativity and quality of all the dishes presented, and I almost couldn't believe my eyes when the winter truffle potato gnocchi dish came with very generous shavings of truffles! Other dishes in the lunch tasting menu were equally memorable: the first course was a delicious salad of brussels sprouts leaves, pears, serrano ham and manchego cheese; the second course was winter truffles potato gnocchi, followed by a perfectly cooked piece of cod served with fennel, basil, peppers. The last dish before dessert was the pistachio crusted duck with endive, apples and dates. The duck was cooked perfectly and I thought it was ingenious to use pistachio for some added texture.
Gan had the 3 course restaurant week menu and he was completely satisfied. His first course was the pork belly with coco beans and oloroso sherry. I tasted some of the pork belly and it was absolutely perfect. Imagine crispy skin followed by soft, moist and juicy pork belly that just falls apart. For the second course he had braised lamb shoulder with almonds, orange marmalade and escarole. The wine braised lamb shoulder was extremely tender, flavorful (but light) and goes well with escarole, sweet carrots, and sour cream. I thought it was smart not to serve the typical carbs such as mash potatoes or couscous etc with the meat dish at Dovetail (lamb shoulder and duck dish in this case). Most restaurants do that, and I always thought it was too heavy, at least for me.
Desserts were Caramel cake with peanuts and popcorn sherbet from the restaurant week menu and bittersweet chocolate mouse with chocolate devil cake and blood orange segments from the lunch tasting menu. Both desserts were delicious, but the popcorn sherbet was definitely something new to us ( although it tasted somewhat like butter pecan ice cream).
After eating at Dovetail, I understand why so many people like the restaurant (and the food). The service was good, the food was creative and exciting, and the whole dining experience was just pleasant and comfortable. I can see that the restaurant is on its way to becoming something great. And if I live in Upper West Side, I would probably dine there very often; This is definitely a restaurant where haute cuisine can be enjoyed without ever breaking the banks.