We had just sat down at our table. As I pulled out my camera to photograph the menu, the bright dining room lights were quickly dimmed down to candle-lit intensity. Blogger alert! Proper photography was suddenly out of the question. The simple task of reading the menu proved challenging –our waiter extended her flashlight. So in view of the unforeseen censorship, all I can offer are illustrative reenactments of the experience. Questionably accurate provided my faint visual memory.
Town is technically a hotel restaurant, but it hardly feels that way. Located inside the Chambers in midtown Manhattan, its concealed design provides for a nice sense of exclusivity. The private entrance leads to a small bar; behind it, a suspended walnut staircase shows the way to the downstairs dining room. Despite the impressive high-ceilings, floor space is tight. And in good discount airlines fashion, it was designed to include the maximum number of seats.
This floor design yields a curious side effect. The sharply dressed wait staff has to stand on the outskirts of the room, waiting for a reason to contend with the winding spaces between tables. The strange lineup resembles a military formation, off-putting to say the least. Eat your broccoli!
All in all, Town provides attentive service in an elegant atmosphere; for the most part. Our dinner was peppered with a few mishaps not expected for a high-end restaurant. Menus forgotten on the table, dishes presented with inelegance and tap water poured after we had ordered sparkling.
The menu (or what I could barely see of it)
The restaurant has a good selection of what it calls Dynamic American Cuisine. Despite the minimalist descriptions, the menu is inventive and appetizing, the type that makes you want to try a few different things. Nothing is highlighted but the restaurant has a few declared signature dishes listed on their website.
Three varieties of bread are served promptly after ordering. The individually baked mini rolls include brioche and Jalapeño / Cheese.
To start, an amuse bouche of Almond gazpacho with chorizo oil and baby cilantro. The taste is bland but not bad. It’s in the presentation though that the concept falls apart. The soup is served in a plastic glass shot that makes it feel instantly cheap. Hasbro tea party cheap.
As an appetizer, the Foie gras terrine / picked cherry / cherry syrup / chocolate salt sounded like a good choice. The minimalist presentation is appetizing and the foie gras is lusciously creamy, despite a few unexpected tough veins I had to go through. On the side, the accompanying toasts lacked crunchiness.
The Risotto of escargots / sweet garlic / black truffles is one of the restaurants signature dishes. Served in a generous portion, the dish is finished at the table with the snails poured over the rice. Granted ours was vigorously scooped by a not so graceful food runner.
For main course, a good surprise was the Lobster wrapped monkfish / smoked corn puree / chanterelle. A beautiful combination of flavors accentuated by the sweet corn puree and buttery sauce. Perfectly cooked and artfully finished with a saffron-color foam.
For the final course, the restaurant offers 4 categories with a few choices under each. They include cheeses with accoutrements, ice creams and sorbets, tarts and chocolate desserts.
Our waitress suggested the Vanilla and chocolate beignets. They were delicious. Served warm, dusted with sugar, crispy on the outside and deliciously creamy inside. Each fritter is actually filled with vanilla or chocolate cream. So far, NYC’s best beignet.
The privacy of the lower level dining room is somewhat compromised by the overly tight table arrangement. Service is professional but feels out of synch at times. All is worth overlooking for a taste of Geoffrey Zakarian’s inventive and sophisticated cuisine. You won’t forget the food. Even under dim light.
Town closed in April 2009.
It was located at 15 West 56th Street, NY