SHO Shaun Hergatt
Anyone who has partaken in Restaurant Week more than once quickly realizes that it’s generally not worth it. In the past I’ve always ended up ordering off the regular menu, and now I rarely bother at all. It’s actually very easy to determine whether you should bite or not—is it an expensive restaurant or not an expensive restaurant?
A few friends recently wanted to eat barbecue and none of us had been to Wildwood. Did we want to spend $35 apiece for an appetizer like fried green tomatoes, an entrée such as spare ribs and a chocolate molten cake when “Three Little Pigs,” a porky triumvirate of thick bacon, pulled pork, spare ribs and two sides (I chose baked beans and collard greens) was enough food for two meals and cost $21.95?
SHO Shaun Hergatt, on the other hand, is a mysterious (literally—it’s been covered in scaffolding for eons and has that ‘80s Shogun black lacquer, red accents, land of the rising sun vibe) upscale restaurant that I walk by every single day but have never felt compelled to visit. I know the chef is Australian and that he uses lots of imported exotica and gets flogged in The New York Times for being tone deaf and pricy when that’s not really true.
$69 isn’t an outrageous dinner prix-fixe, the Restaurant Week $24.07 lunch was a bargain and would not be a rip off at its normal $35. My own hesitation stemmed from the Wall Street location and odd placement in a maligned condo with my favorite tagline: The Setai. There’s no word for it in English. I associate the neighborhood with work, not leisure.
I had never heard of Petuna Farms, the purveyor of this ocean trout, and that is because it’s in freaking Tasmania. I’m totally un-locavore so the tartare and roe suited me just fine. I love seeing kalamansi on menus; I seriously thought it was going to be a break-out citrus in the mid-2000s but the Filipino fruit never made the mainstream jump like yuzu. The limey broth was tart, perhaps a touch too mouth-puckery, and slightly bitter in a grapefruit manner. The trout was rich enough to take it, though.
The hibiscus-and-acacia-honey glazed Long Island duck was served with an apple cider vinegar sauce, brussels sprouts, turnips and a gelatinous cube that I wanted to say was beets based on color but wasn’t particularly beety. In both dishes the equation was unctuous+tart+bitter.
I’ll order anything butterscotch and was curious how they meant "parfait." Clearly, this was a modern scattered dessert not a composed chilled treat in a tall glass. The tawny poof looked like a marshmallow but was cold and creamy like ice cream, fluffy. Honeycrisp apples were used for sweetness while the sorbet was pure green apple. More of that tartness. This more like an apple crisp than a parfait.
I rarely talk wine, but if you are curious I had a glass of Lachini Vineyards 2007 pinot gris, then returned to work and saw Eric Asimov had just written about Oregon pinot gris being kind of boring. True enough, I had already forgotten what my wine tasted like 15 minutes later.
If I had a personal chef I would like small, powerfully flavored portions of food for lunch every day instead of my usual light, soul-crushing soup or salad.
SHO Shaun Hergatt * 40 Broad St., New York, NY