August 5, 2019 | BITE: My Journal
One Flight Up: Discovering the Thrills of Shun
At Le Jardinair for dinner, we are urged to try Shun with its equally elegant design on the floor above.
I download the photos from last night’s dinner and start typing my notes. Instantly, the lush summer taste of my chilled corn velouté with its stitch of curry comes rushing back. The soup arrives in a zany covered bowl. Then the top is whisked away and I see the uni toast alongside. Just the right size for an uniac to put away three or four bites of sweet salty savor on toasted black pain de me made with squid ink. Except that I’m committed to share with my two dining companions. Drat, I have no choice. .
As I’ve said, if there’s corn on the menu, I’ll order it. Like this corn velouté in its odd covered bowl.
The corn veloute looks like a birthday party with its colorful cutouts and drops of green basil oil.
Does Daniko like uni? There are some foods she won’t even taste. Alas, it seems uni is not one of those proscribed items. She happily bites down on her third. And that’s it. Over. She gives me a generous chunk of her king crab rolled in sheer daikon but it scarcely makes up for my sea urchin loss.
King crab looks like a holiday too, the crab rolled in thin slices of daikon and plated with radish slices.
Seared scallops are served with fennel confit, tomato coulis and florets of romanesco with dill and red chili oils.
Randall’s seared scallops with tomato coulis, fennel confit, small nubbins of bright green romanesco and a spark of red chili oil are compelling but not dazzling like my rich corn puddle. As The Trump might say, like America, I’m losing the trade war.
Our attentive server decrumbs the table early on but later, she is distracted by new arrivals across the room.
Our trio is at a corner circle booth at Shun, not quite a month old, on the second floor at 610 Lexington. Tall white lilies stand guard in a ceramic vase on Daniko’s right. And the greeter has delivered little footstools to stash our hand bags and Randall’s brief case.
Robuchon veteran Alain Verzeroli runs both restaurants, Shun on the 2nd floor and Jardinier below.
We got here tonight because Daniko and her best gal pal loved the Le Jardinier, the ground floor restaurant. But when Randall and I joined them there for dinner last week, we were less impressed. Joël Robuchon protégé Alain Verzeroli, the culinary director for both restaurants. came by and asked if we’d tried Shun yet.
Even the butter is dressed up for a party.
Randall and Daniko have been to Shun and found the place worth my visit. So we’re here. I should probably come back another night with other friends just to be sure the kitchen is as vibrant as it seems tonight. The service sadly is somewhat half-hearted. I can’t be too damning with only one visit.
The amuse arrives in a dizzy china cup, deliberately tilted.
Still, I’m really turned on. I don’t want to fritter away a week being circumspect. Dinner was exciting. We’re not put off by the $155 four-course prix fixe. Randall just won the lottery. And I got a big check from an advertiser. But we’re more $135 three-course types anyway. Possibly you have a gourmand big spender in your Rolodex who is waiting for your call.
Cream of soy bean tofu is topped with watermelon, Persian cucumber brunoise and cucumber flowers.
As the evening goes on, the tables fill. It’s not a crowd you can easily categorize by zipcode or politics. Rather, it’s a mix of middle-aged, both chic and dowdy, young trendsetters, the beautiful and the indifferent: men in T-shirts with women in fancy underwear. I worry about the solid young man in a white shirt that is straining to contain his bulk.
The bread runner brings seaweed miso rosemary brioche and a second, quite wonderful roll.
There is a longish wait, just to give our order, and another after. And then the amuse arrives in a deliberately crooked china cup: “Cream of soy bean tuna topped with watermelon and a Persian cucumber brunoise,” the waiter describes it.
The bread is baked in the house, the menu says, but where is it? “It will come later,” Randall promises.
The turbot is cooked “meuniere,” then topped with chopped salted plum and chive cooked in brown butter.
I spy the diminutive bread server him headed our way, but he suddenly swerves, drops his box of rolls across the room and rushes back to help deliver our starters. As I dip into my corn soup, he returns with two rolls for each of us: miso rosemary brioche and a seaweed puff. Later, thick slices of crusty rye toast will appear with entrées. Bread this good tends to compete with even the cleverest schemes of the kitchen.
The cod is poached in olive oil, then served with Dassai sake buerre blanc, finger lime zest and Kaluga caviar.
My friends have both chosen from the “Between the Waves” category. Randall’s turbot and artichoke painted with salted plum brown butter is a feisty fish. Daniko’s flowery Icelandic cod with Dassai sake beurre blanc has a romantic finish: finger lime zest, espelette pepper, caviar and droplets of green garlic oil.
Roasted Colorado lamb – a chop and the saddle – is served with eggplant caviar, date puree and mini eggplant.
I had considered “Shun’s Long Island duck a l’orange, with peach and cherries,” but in the last few weeks I seem to have duck whenever it’s offered. Shun’s meaty, rare Colorado lamb – chop and saddle -- with small miso-stuffed baby eggplants and a dab of date condiment is a better choice.
Epi bread is made with baguette dough using fermented rice, cereals with white a trio of seeds.
In the middle of it all, a server brings chewy rolls studded with pine nuts and sesame, just baked below. I am too full to do the bread justice. “I’ll take two home for breakfast,” I say.
A meringue disc is topped with a passion fruit and apricot sorbet and lime curd in white chocolate.
It’s not late. It just seems late because the kitchen was slow and our server has disappeared when it’s time to clear the table. I think all of us might have skipped dessert – “Sweet Metamorphosis,” the menu reads -- but then Randall offers his seductive wisdom: “It comes on the prix fixe.”
Sake and raspberry jelly is layered with fresh berries, raspberry sherbet and raspberry and lemongrass foam.
One leaf is Earl Grety and mascarpone mousse on a cocoa sable; the other is matcha cremeux with cherries.
I’m torn between the raspberry and lemongrass sorbets with sake gelée, the passion fruit vacherin with white chocolate and elderflower, and the coffee crumble parfait. Daniko’s Yin Yo Leaves -- one Earl Gray mascarpone (misspelled marscapone on my menu), the other matcha cherry blossom --- are served on a dish that is broken in two. Clever I suppose, but clumsy for passing.
Lemon curd puffs are crowned with small flowers. The bonbon is salted caramel topped with caramel ganache.
Let us be grateful that pastry chef Salvatore Martone doesn’t get carried away like that too often. Delicious little lemon curd puffs and chocolate bonbons are his farewell mignardises. Tall women striding on spike heels are arriving as we head toward the elevator.
610 Lexington Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets. 212 451 9228. Dinner Tuesday through Thursday 5:30 to 10 pm. Friday and Saturday till 10:30 pm. Lunch will start in September.
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