SHO Shaun Hergatt

The last time I was in New York, we were going to have dinner at SHO Shaun Hergatt, one of the handful of two-michelin starred restaurants in the city. I was very pleased to see that the financial crisis and the downturn in the economy had yet to close this restaurant, although I was slightly suspicious when I found I could book a dinner for two quite easily in the next couple of days. Nevertheless, we headed on downtown to Wall Street to try it out. The location of SHO is odd, on an entire second floor building, not even inside a hotel right in the middle of the financial district.

Given the high cost of their rent, I’m surprised that their tasting menu was a reasonable US$85 for five courses (without tax, tip, supplements or wine). What they have done with the place is very chic – it’s almost very oriental in feeling and the high ceilings contribute to the air of spaciousness to the entire dining room. The tables are extremely well set apart for a NY restaurant, although it did feel like the dining table itself was pretty wide to begin with.

There was an open kitchen, and we could see the large number of chefs bustling about preparing and finalising all the intricate components for each dish, although I was sat along the wall, slightly behind a case so missed out on most of the view for the evening. A few lucky tables (I believe reserved for people on special occasions like an anniversary, etc) were seated right next to the kitchen when I believe the view would have been excellent.

Before even deciding on which five courses we wanted, a series of amuse bouches arrived. This one was a light, airy apple foam with some creamy cheese concoction, and then topped with a sprig of dill. Tiny apple cubes sat suspended in the middle of the foam, providing a nice crunchy contrast to the otherwise smooth dish.

The next arrived in a huge conch shell, effectively small balls of mashed potato with black squid ink encasing foie gras and rolled in breadcrumbs then fried. Each bite had a great amount of flavour, and contrast but each small enough for a bite full just enough to enjoy and start the appetite.

Next up were the mussels although other than being fresh, can’t remember what they were served with. Nice but obviously not particularly memorable.

Bread is generally always enjoyable in places like this. Each table received a small fresh loaf of, I’m guessing, some sort of sourdough bread. The crust was crunchy, the insides bouncy although I do think it was slightly overbaked. I could forgive this when they gave us three types of butter (truffle, classic french and a sage). My favourite of course, being the umami-rich truffle butter. The sage butter was very subtle and was overpowered by the crust of the bread.

For each course, you get to choose one of three different dishes. The first, Hudson Valley Foie Gras Sandwich with pain d’Epice Wafers, Banyuls Reduction, Sicilian Pistachios is the one that I didn’t order so can’t really comment on the flavour.

I selected the Chef’s Garden Beets with Hibiscus Tuile, Vermont Creamery Goat Cheese Pave’, Beet Dust, a classic combination of sweet and salty that was beautifully presented and even more delightfully tasty. The pave, like a small cheesecake was the perfect size to accompany the red beet, the crisp tuile working to contrast the soft textures.

The next dish that I didn’t personally order was the Griggstown Farm Coxcomb with Veal Tounge Ribbons, Chicken Skin, Autumn Mushroom Pave’. We had no idea what a coxcomb was before ordering this dish (it’s the fleshy bit on top of a rooster’s head, for example), let alone that you could eat it. I tried a little bit of this one and was surprised at how tender it was. No comment on the other elements.

Instead, for my next course, I ordered the Satur Farms Celeriac Espuma with Crispy Potato Curls, Black Truffle Powder, Truffle Creme. They brought the bowl to the table where you could see all the small tiny components, before they carefully spooned the celeriac espuma (foam) on to the plate where it settled down into a rich, creamy sauce. The balances in this dish were fine – truffle flavours rising to the top with each spoonful, a rich velvety and tasty foam with three, tiny but perfectly crisp potato curls floating around. I could have had a whole bowlful of that celeriac foam.

Next up was the East Coast Flounder with Langoustine, Black Truffle Cauliflower Puree, Romanesco, once again not my dish.

I had gone for the Nova Scotia Lobster with Garlic Chives, African Basil Seeds, Chilli, Coconut. This tasted a lot more like a rich, red curry sauce (chilli and coconut), though it was a perfect combination with the sweet lobster flesh. It definitely had some kick to it, but more of that type that gets going as soon as it touches the tongue, leaving a lingering impression for a good time to follow. Also, not listed was the crispy rice balls that helped provide additional contrast.

Next up, the Three Day Beef Cheek with Baby Leek, Potato Parchment, Perigourdine Sauce (not my dish).

Instead I went for the Upstate New York Guinea Hen with Caramelised Salsify, Quinoa, Garlic Cream, Rillette. The quinoa was much smaller than I anticipated, and though slightly more like oatmeal in appearance, was a much better size for the dish. Crispy skin perched atop the perfectly round rillettes and the meat was amazing soft and gorgeous, no doubt cooked sous vide to keep all that juiciness in. They did well to reduce the sauce to a really thick concentrated texture that literally stuck to the meat as we wiped it through. Delicious.

I didn’t order the Satur Farms Candided Yam with Canadian Maple Mallow, Cranberry, Burnt Milk but the dish certainly looked impressive.

Instead I went for the Blue Cheese Roulade with White Wine, Quince Puree, Walnut, Celery, something a little bit different. There wasn’t a huge amount of cheese, instead this dish was perfectly balanced with all the components you would assemble yourself, but much more lovingly arranged.

I ordered some fresh mint tea to finish off the evening and the petite fours arrived. Fresh, tiny cinnamon donuts (no bigger than a thumbnail) and deceivingly big in the picture below. Fresh, light and airy.

Accompanying them were freshly made hazelnut macaroons that I’m sure the French would be very happy to eat. I don’t claim to be an expert in these delicate bites, but this one was definitely great – not too sweet, light and flavourful.

Finishing off the trio was a black sesame truffle, the earthy elements almost hidden away by the bitter cocoa dust surrounding them. A great way to finish off the meal.

Whilst not the cheapest of dinners, I was very impressed by the entire experience. Service was impeccable – topping up tap water without us even realising it, dishes being whisked away not too quickly, but not too slowly and we even noticed the small details like having two staff put down the plates at almost the same time. In a place like this, there is definitely the slight airy of pompousness – napkins appear refolded on the dining table when you return from the restrooms although I’m pleased they didn’t go to the extent of replacing them entirely. There was no pressure to drink if you didn’t want to and the food, most importantly was a wonder to enjoy. The only thing to note if you go is the supplements they add on if you order the dishes with more expensive ingredients (fair enough). Total for two of us with tax and tip (no alcoholic drinks was US$306).

Name: SHO Shaun Hergatt
Found at: 40 Broad St, New York, New York

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