Cookshop

by Susan on May 13, 2008

[Food:2/5]

The name implies a place that is both down-to-earth and down-home. Cookshop’s Americana menu of simple, appealing dishes born from regional ingredients confirms the idea. You sit back in your rustic wooden chair, admire the large dining room with the open kitchen in the back corner, and smile; you’re confident this is going to be a meal to remember. Unfortunately for us, these moments of anticipation were some of the evening’s only highlights.

There was a dichotomy between the efforts spent hand selecting local products and the lack of thought applied to crafting them into dishes. If there was care put into the creation of Cookshop’s dishes, it wasn’t apparent the night we dined there. Clean flavors were ruined with too much salt. Dishes that needed punch wallowed in blandness. Protein preparations that sounded intriguing were lackluster. Even our server, salty and unprofessional, reflected the food.

Penance for seating us half an hour late for our reservation was a free sampling of Cookshop’s Snacks (a separate category from Starters). Two of the Snacks were the most flavorful and tantalizing of our entire night’s savory dishes. Veal anticuchos were intensely meaty and decadent while Chicken nuggets encrusted in honey and nuts were addictively sweet and crunchy. Though Deviled eggs used to be a menu novelty, now chefs have to worry whether or not their southern-inspired treats will stack up against the competition. Cookshop’s did not. Fried hominy was schizophrenic; some bites tasted fresh from the fryer and well spiced while others were painstakingly chewy and salty.

It was a fitting kick-off.

A starter of Rabbit rillettes was devoid of the salt and fat-rendered texture normally associated with the dish, leaving it to taste and look like a shredded rabbit salad.

The piquant harissa under the starter of Seared Montauk squid was tasty, but didn’t have enough flair to uplift the uninspired dish.

A special entrée of Vermont lamb was so off in flavor and texture it was close to inedible. It was difficult to determine whether the meat itself, or its preparation, had been its undoing.

While the exterior of the Hampshire Pork Chop was rubbed generously with a smoked chili-sauce and a side of red cabbage provided acidic balance, there just wasn’t enough flavor to carry the slightly over-cooked and thick cut of meat.

Maine sea scallops rested on a salty tomato sauce that overpowered the delicate shellfish. The accompanying roasted fennel, which showed no signs of doctoring, was excellent.

The Hudson Valley rabbit duo was the table’s winner for taste, but the loser in presentation. A proficiently grilled and well-seasoned leg and caul-wrapped loin were served over creamy polenta, but a dousing of sauce transformed the plate into a pile of mush.

The Butter Pecan Sundae with layers of butterscotch sauce, white chocolate blondie, salted pecans, and a topping of whipped cream achieved where the rest of the meal had failed: harmonious and delicious flavors and textures. It was the high note of an otherwise forgettable meal.

Cookshop
www.cookshopny.com
156 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
212.924.4440

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JK May 14, 2008 at 11:13 pm

I’m sorry you had such a lackluster meal at Cookshop. I’ve been for dinner maybe 8-10 times and never had anything less than a great meal. Not a meal to remember for all time, like, say, at Momofuku Ko, but I always leave terrifically happy, and I consider myself on the discerning side. And Latifah the bartender mixes some of the most inventive and delicious drinks I’ve had the pleasure of imbibing. Maybe it was just an off night. :(

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