The John Dory
Last week while I was in New York, my dear old friend Jay and I were invited to a friends-and-family pre-opening dinner at The John Dory, a new fish restaurant in Lower Chelsea, right next door to Del Posto. The same team that brought you The Spotted Pig has just added The John Dory to their portfolio. Chef April Bloomfield was there, along with Ken Friedman and Joe Bastianich, and a few of the other partners. I was excited to see David Lynch working there as well. David is a brilliant sommelier who worked at Babbo for years, most recently as the manager and wine consultant.
As I entered and gazed at a giant fish tank, the theme of the restaurant became apparent: fish. Just as The Spotted Pig is all about pig paraphernalia, The John Dory is all about fish imagery in every shape and form, on every surface imaginable. The bar, which has rows of fish encased in plastic, was especially interesting--think Damien Hirst.
Jay is the most sentimental person I know. He brought two bottles of white wine, both from the 1996 vintage, the year we started working together on the wine column for House & Garden. Both bottles had appeared in stories we had produced for the magazine.
The first wine we opened was the Chablis Grand Cur “Les Clos” by Dauvisat. The next was the Clos Windsbuhl Riesling from Domaine Zind Humbrecht. These are two of my favorite food wines in the world, and I was so happy to be sharing them with Jay.
Since this was a friends-and-family night, we were the guests of the restaurant. These dinners are a chance for the restaurant staff to get their bearings, work out kinks, and basically get up to speed before the official opening. All I can say is, if this night was a sample of what’s to come, The John Dory is going to be a hit from day one. I was already inquiring about reservations, considering the seating is limited. I believe the capacity is roughly 60 seats including the bar.
We started with an amuse bouche of House Smoked Char with homemade potato chips.
Delicious, loved the textures, and the char was light and not overpowering. Next we ordered the Nantucket Bay Scallops crudo and a selection of east coast and west coast oysters. We started with the Chablis. When they poured our first glass, I immediately noticed the color--a beautiful green gold. The wine had the perfect characteristics of this vineyard and the varietal--flinty and minerally, perfect acidity, amazing fruit. Some people might think this wine is an infant, but I think it is drinking perfectly at this moment. The oysters and the Chablis were an insane combination. The oysters were fresh, plump, and juicy, and it was a joy to have the Chablis to wash them down. The oysters came with a cilantro mignonette, which was quite good, but ultimately I am a purist, and I love my oysters with just a little squeeze of fresh lemon. The Nantucket Bay Scallops crudo were equally amazing.
Next we ordered the restaurant’s namesake dish, the Whole John Dory for two with salsa verde. We also ordered (at the suggestion of Joe Bastianich) the grilled rib-eye for two with a smoked oyster and bone marrow sauce. At that point, we opened the Clos Windsbuhl. Oh my God! The nose was full of white peach and apricots and a fabulous sweetness in the middle followed by a perfect dry and acidic finish. This wine is just spectacular. It was ideal with the John Dory. The meat of the fish was so succulent and firm, and the wine just melted away the fish. This was pure bliss.
The steak was equally profound. My only complaint, if you can call it one, is I wanted more of the divine sauce (although I am sure I could of just asked for more!). It was a brilliant kind of English oysters and steak moment.
The John Dory hits the right notes in so many ways. I couldn’t be happier because it is located just down the street from where I live. Like the Spotted Pig, I’m sure it will be impossible to get into, but who cares? It is worth the wait, and I for one can’t wait to go back.
The John Dory
85 10th Avenue