It’s generally agreed among the foodie cognoscenti that when Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield unleashed the Spotted Pig on this gnudi-starved city, they not only introduced the gastropub to these shores, they changed the way we think about dining elbow-to-elbow on rickety footstools. (As it turns out, it’s not bad.) Four years and countless Roquefort burgers later, with the opening of the John Dory, they’ll attempt to dazzle their public with another first: the British seafood restaurant. Not to be confused with Arthur Treacher’s, says Friedman, a proper British seafood restaurant is not about fish and chips. And Bloomfield’s preliminary menu (oyster pan roast with uni-butter crostini, smoked-haddock-and-leek tart, whole broiled lobster) attests to that. “It’s simple seafood in the style of a place where instead of oil-garlic-and-basil, butter, cream, and parsley rule,” says partner Mario Batali. For Bloomfield, who will oversee chef de cuisine and Esca veteran Sara Ochs, “it’s a place that serves classic English dishes such as potted salmon, cockles in vinegar, sardine pâté, and rock oysters.” Hix Oyster & Fish House in Dorset is her go-to spot for this type of cooking, and “there are some lovely places in Whitstable too.”
How lovely this will be when translated to the outskirts of the meatpacking district, where the John Dory will occupy a modest 50-seat berth between Del Posto and Craftsteak, is anyone’s guess. But with neighbors like that, it’s not surprising that the Pig’s progeny represents a bump up in setting, service, and prices (and, presumably, the chances of scoring an extra star or two when the reviews come out). Not that Bloomfield, with a Food & Wine Best New Chef award and a recent Iron Chef victory, isn’t already on a tear. But still, there’s only so many stars a Michelin man perched atop a footstool can dole out. Thus, unlike the Pig, the John Dory will take reservations, make sure that all the chairs have backs, and keep the tunes at a conversation-friendly volume. The front of the house will be up to multistar snuff, too, with former Babbo G.M. David Lynch guarding the door, partner Joe Bastianich overseeing the wine with Lynch, and a staff outfitted not in T-shirts with images of pigs but crisp white button-downs and ties. Why the name? Bloomfield is a fan of the spiny-headed Euro fish. “I love how fierce it looks,” she says, “and it cooks wonderfully.” And besides, says Batali, “it’s better than the Rusty Scupper.”
The John Dory
85 Tenth Ave., nr. 16th St.