Friday, July 15, 2011

Elsewhere

In my attempt to visit every current Michelin Starred restaurant I have found everything from beautiful gems (the aptly named Jewel Bako) to abysmal wastes of time (Shalezeh or Shalizar, or who cares?). Some restaurants have made me seriously question the criteria and the judges involved in the selection process. Others have made me wonder if, while still in their infancy, they can take the place of some of the more decrepit members of the club.

Elsewhere, on 43rd Street just West of 9th Avenue, just opened in December, but is running on all cylinders. In searching for press on this great spot, I found sparse, although positive, reviews. They deserve more.

This place strikes the perfect balance between comfort, inventiveness, and execution. A strong beer menu, beautifully selected wine menu, and a seasonal and creative cocktail program make the overall bar program here among the best around. Most places slack in some areas and let the masses choose what they want. Elsewhere selects the best, sometimes quirkiest, drinks and makes you choose from them. This makes me very comfortable at their small, but friendly, bar.

The cheese menu is something to drool over. And, while the selections themselves are great, the accompaniments, artfully created by Pastry Chef Leigh Friend, are what make the cheese experience here a few notches above other cheese plates anywhere I've been. Chef Leigh has an amazingly keen palate and I find myself cooing over her (the cheeses are wisely and carefully selected by Dimitri Saad, but Chef Leigh makes them sing) cheese plates regularly.

The main menu is creative, yet not outlandish or lavish. The main proteins or starches are nothing you can't find on numerous other menus in Hell's Kitchen, but the way they are put together is a little different than you might normally find. Chef Megan Johnson has an unapologetic love of fun flavor combinations, and apparently also for perfectly executed dishes. The 5-Spoke Tumbleweed Poutine (fries, cheese, gravy, and chicken liver) is sinfully delectable. Light and perfect for summer, Grilled Octopus Salad features perfectly prepared octopus, not an easy feat. A delicious Roasted Bone Marrow with French Fries is perfectly cooked, and the fries are a witty substitute for bread in this case.

The desserts, not surprisingly with a talent like Chef Leigh, are remarkable. I have had four desserts at Elsewhere, and each was delightful in its simple creativity. The Dutch Baby is well worth the fifteen minute wait after you order it.

I rarely comment on ambiance or service because they make no difference to my enjoyment of the food itself, but, in this case let me state that the place is cute, warm, and welcoming, and the staff is generally the same. Service is usually on point.

I have had numerous dinners here, every sip has been memorable, every bite fantastic, and every morsel brilliantly envisioned and executed. Not surprisingly, my one brunch there (so far) was also divine.

Not only do I give this restaurant my full recommendation, I will go this far: Chef Megan Johnson deserves to have at least One Star on her resume when the next list comes out. So go now, before everyone else finds it and you can't get a reservation.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.