Allen & Delancey (closed)

by Susan on January 1, 2008

[Food:3/5]

You know you’re dining at a hot spot when a beret-clad Tom Colicchio is seated a few tables away. If I only could have asked about his experience at Allen & Delancey  . . .

Neil Ferguson, a former employee of Gordon Ramsay, helms the kitchen at this cavernous Lower East Side eatery. Unique preparations were different than anything I’ve recently seen on a NYC menu. Ferguson’s menu, devoid of side dishes and salads, was refreshing. Two types of homemade bread were offered at the start of the meal and chocolates were presented with the bill. Despite such amenities, reasonable prices abound. Ferguson is definitely doing something special and unusual at Allen & Delancey, but there was more potential than actual success.

The menu, with inconsistent and misleading descriptions, required some deciphering. It was unclear whether this was an oversight or part of some less-than-brilliant design scheme. Whichever the case, it should be amended. Considerable detail described some dishes, but crucial information was missing from others. Though all of the meat dishes feature their protein prepared in “two-ways,” this fact is only provided for the duck and the lamb. Even more frustrating was the over simplified depiction of the Cabbage, Beef and Onion entrée.

The exposed brick walls, bookshelves, flickering candles, and wooden beams felt natural and cozy, not fabricated. Tabletops for two were close together, situated in a too straight line that didn’t quite gel with the vibe. Velvet booths and four-tops provided a bit more breathing room. Service was professional and friendly, though food emerged from the kitchen at rocket speed and we had to withhold our dessert order to gain some much needed digestion time.

As for the food, many risks were taken, though not all of them paid off.  A gelatinous log of Bone Marrow, topped with a healthy spooning of paddlefish caviar, rests on finely diced shallots and pickles. We were drawn in by the intriguing combination of ingredients whose amalgamation we could not imagine. The flavors didn’t quite meld, proving that our instincts were correct.

A Raviolo, over-stuffed with sweetbreads and bolognese, was better conceived but still had shortcomings. Sweetbreads, normally decadent, were overshadowed by pedestrian ground beef. And despite the carrot and cabbage slaw, the dish lacked acid, leaving one’s mouth with a pasty coating.

The entrees promised exciting mergers of proteins and vegetables, but the quality of meat was sub-par, bringing what could have been exceptional dishes down a level. The Moulard Duck breast, though spiced beautifully, was very tough. An accompanying triangle of foie gras would melt in one’s mouth with fanfare, but a sprinkling of nuts ruined the show. Turnip confit was sweet and silky smooth, but buttered radishes had an odd flavor.

The aforementioned Cabbage, Beef and Onion was a grand presentation of four items: a hunk of aged sirloin, a cabbage leaf stuffed with braised beef, a potato gratin, and an onion stuffed with cabbage. The sirloin was far from tender and the braised beef suffered from the same dryness that haunted the raviolo. The dish craved even the slightest trace of puree or sauce. Anything that might provide moisture.

The desserts were more common, though bacon kissed syrup, served with the Sweet Cream French Toast, and the Whiskey Vanilla Shake that accompanied the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart, hinted at greatness.

Ferguson is striving for something extraordinary at Allen & Delancey, and if he can attain the heights for which he reaches, the result will be astounding.

Allen & Delancey
www.allenanddelancey.net
115 Allen Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 253-5400

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