• Critics’ Pick
  • Sheridan Square

  • American Nouveau $23-$35
  • 138 Seventh Ave. South
    New York, NY 10014
  • Neighborhood: West Village
  • Phone: 212-352-2237
Sheridan Square Photo
This venue is closed. I feel like I’m in Chicago,” someone said as we settled down to dinner at Sheridan Square, the competent, blandly appointed restaurant that opened on a heavily trafficked stretch of lower Seventh Avenue on the grim border region of the West Village. Actually, the setup at Sheridan Square (which includes a bar and dining room, plus several smog-blown sidewalk café tables) doesn’t look like that of any ambitious Chicago restaurant I’ve ever seen. It looks more like the inside of a first-tier Kansas City airport hotel. The walls of the dining room are covered in white beam board and random black-and-white photographs of beaches and surfboards and trees. The ceilings are hung with the kind of circular crimson lampshades that were all the rage in modish restaurants a decade ago. The generic furniture looks like it’s been thrown together by flunkies from Ethan Allen. There is a wood-burning oven flickering in the back of the room, but then that’s true of every new restaurant nowadays, from the Kansas City airport to the pearly shores of Malibu.

Given these portents of doom (location and décor being the surest early indicators of a restaurant’s prospects), it’s a mild surprise that Sheridan Square has managed, during its short tenure, to lure not one but two top-level chefs into the kitchen. The first was well-traveled restaurant ronin Gary Robins (late of the Russian Tea Room), who put together a respectable menu before abruptly vanishing, as he has been prone to do throughout his career. Robins was replaced by Franklin Becker, a practiced big-city professional who ran the kitchen at Brasserie, on East 53rd Street, for many years and once did time as Ron Perelman’s private chef. In accordance with the wood-burning-oven motif, Becker has implemented a seasonal, New American menu that includes a predictable number of “cherrywood-grilled” items (octopus, trout, rib-eye steak), plus one or two wistful choices from the chef’s old gourmet days uptown, like a properly smooth, cool foie gras torchon, and platters of “wood-oven-roasted” escargot.

If you’re feeling rash, do what the Steak Loon does and complement your protein binge with a helping of bacon-covered organic grits, or a bite or two Becker’s gimmicky “Sloppy Mary” burger, which contains a ball of Cheddar cheese hidden in its beefy core. But if you’re wise, you’ll save room for the desserts, several of which manage to capture the restaurant’s tired barnyard ethos in playful, original, ways. There are fresh berries poured with crème fraîche, and an old-fashioned French pain perdu cut in thick wedges and paired with caramelized bananas and Ovaltine ice cream. The updated strawberry shortcake (slabs of moist pound cake in between layers of sugary, lightly cooked strawberries) is a satisfying dish, as is the elegant, gourmet version of s’mores, consisting of a chocolate ganache with hints of caramel. It comes with ice cream topped with crumbled graham crackers and has a burnt-marshmallow top, and, like much of the food in this curious restaurant, it’s much better than the ordinary surroundings deserve.

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