A, C, E at 14th St.
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This venue is closed.
April Bloomfield, who made her New York reputation serving up elegant, two-fisted gastropub recipes at the popular West Village restaurant-bar the Spotted Pig, doesn’t seem to fit into the classic seafood-snob mold. Her most popular dish at the Spotted Pig is a giant Roquefort-smothered cheeseburger. As an acolyte of the great “nose-to-tail” London chef Fergus Henderson, she has a fondness for offal specialties like grilled beef tongue and crispy pig’s ear spritzed with lemon and capers. She serves chicken livers, too, and plenty of bacon, and has a happy English penchant for drowning her recipes in flagons of melted butter and country cream.
So it’s no surprise that Bloomfield’s second venture, with the restaurateur Ken Friedman, is a seafood restaurant of a slightly different kind. “I feel like I’m having dinner in the Yellow Submarine,” someone said as we wedged ourselves into one of the snug little tables at the John Dory, which opened late last year in a narrow slip of a space on the westerly border of the meatpacking district. The skinny Technicolor room is plastered with extravagantly kitschy seafood-shack memorabilia: giant mirrors encrusted with puka shells, laminated nautical charts, shimmering trophy-size fishes. Illuminated tiles run like racing stripes across the floor and ceiling, and the open kitchen is separated from the dining room by a clear plastic bar filled with schools of entombed fishing lures. Dated rock-and-roll anthems blare over the speaker system (as with the Spotted Pig, Mario Batali is a not-so-silent backer), and a well-stocked wall-size aquarium casts the entire scene in an aquamarine glow.
Predictably, Bloomfield does not employ her flavors with a feathery touch. She slathers them on in smoky, buttery layers and uses salty, umami-rich garnishes (anchovies, bottarga) the way a pastry chef uses sugar. In the gentle, diaphanous world of seafood, this kind of headlong approach inevitably produces train wrecks, but the dishes that survive are memorable. The anchovy dressing in my escarole salad was so creamy you could almost cut it with a knife, and the rust-colored fish-soup appetizer seemed thick and overcondensed, as if it had been mixed from the can without enough water. But the tiny, crinkly grilled octopuses, on the other hand, are salted with cool shavings of fennel and just the right amount of that famous Mediterranean flavor enhancer, bottarga—mullet roe cured in sea salt. Then there’s Bloomfield’s version of oyster pan roast, an intensely delicious brew of oysters, lemony shallots, cream, and vermouth, which is so rich and densely flavored it’s served in a decorous little teacup-size bowl.Note
Thrill-seekers should try “Jensen’s Temptation,” a Swedish potato-and-onion side dish, made with lethal amounts of butter and cream.Ideal Meal
Kampachi crudo with ginger, oyster pan roast, fish stew, or John Dory for two, treacle pudding.