August 18, 2008 | Insatiable Critic

Sheridan Square Redux

 Chef Franklin Becker steps on stage at the wood-burning oven arena. Photo: Steven Richter
Chef Franklin Becker steps on stage at the wood-burning oven arena. Photo: Steven Richter

        Chef Franklin Becker inherited a dysfunctional work in  progress when Gary Robins vanished from Sheridan Square. Becker has already tightened ship and put his own mark on the menu – golden tomato gazpacho with cantaloupe sorbet, marvelous grilled swordfish with warm tomato salad.

        In my three visits the staff had clearly not yet been trained and most recently, we had to tell our clueless waiter that the house’s $35 restaurant week dinner had been extended till Labor Day. “The ad listing Sheridan Square is in the Times today,” I tell him. I get a funny feeling nobody has seen the prix fixe menu tonight.

        “I’ll go check into that,” he says.  I look around the room, full tonight with what I imagine are Village first nighters, possibly uptown Robbins’ fans who don’t know the gifted wanderer has whisked off again. 

A trail of red lampshades leads to the grill and wood-burning oven.  Photo: Steven Richter

        In June when I stopped by with friends to see what Robbins was up to, I wondered if the lure of a quicksilver star firing the grill would prop up the $75 dinner on this stretch of Seventh Avenue South’s pop hullabaloo. Even working in a safely accessible self-styled rustic mood, Robbins’ food was elegant, vibrant with flavor. And then, quicker than it takes to overcook a scallop, he was gone.

        Becker, lured from the kitchen at The Brasserie, doesn’t say what he inherited in the cold box below but with a couple of seasoned grillsters on stage in the dining room, he waded in. 

        We caught him furiously tweaking the menu a few days later.

        Back again tonight I am content sharing a good enough sweet green pea risotto and splendid slow cooked salmon with sugar snap peas and Videlia onions from the regular menu while my pal goes for the $35 discount – choosing hand rolled pasta with tomato confit, fava beans and pecorino.

Tiny tomatoes play tart and sweet against the perfectly cooked swordfish. Photo: Steven Richter

        I’m pleased to see that my favorite starter here – a luscious side of Anson Mills grits with aged cheddar and house-smoked bacon has lost the maple syrup it didn’t really need. And tonight’s Black Angus rib eye from the wood-burning oven in the rear comes with truffle cream spinach and roasted mushrooms. Lush warm chocolate tart with macadamia praline ice cream makes up for strawberry “shortbread” served on pound cake. It’s a cheese pound cake, I’m told, but I’m spoiled for that old-fashioned buttermilk biscuit shortcake. Becker, a determined and solid veteran, has just hired an uptown right hand man to drill the staff and continues to fiddle with the menu to win a following for foie gras, $18 oysters and entrees from $23 to $39 on an avenue where Margaritas, mating and sushi reign.

134 Seventh Avenue South between 10th Street and Charles. 212 352 2237



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