FEB 17, 2014 – Word coming from the Standard Hotel is that Narcissa is well worth going to. With a Michelin-starred chef, two beautiful dining rooms and an accessible farm-to-table theme, it’s easy to see the appeal. I dropped by last Sunday for an early dinner — here’s how that went.
The menu is broken out into three sections (apps, mains and sides) with an emphasis on roasting, rotisserie and slow cooking. You’ll find many veggie-friendly apps that take advantage of the chefs inclination to roast, and a wide variety of proteins for you to choose as your main (duck, lamb, hake, branzino, bass, pig, ribeye, etc.). Read on for our dishes…
I’d already been informed it would be a mistake to skip the rotisserie sweet potato with jerk spices, peppers and tofu aioli — very wise advice. The charred potatoes have the perfect level jerk seasoning, but the rest of the dish is really quite light. The butter lettuce, crispy potato skins, chickpeas and aioli provide a fresh counterpoint to the assertive potatoes to arrive at a pleasant balance of flavors.
The other appetizer featured two perfectly cooked pieces of beef short rib with pastrami spices, cabbage, radish and buttermilk. This dish read well on the menu, and really came through on the tasting. The crusted pastrami spices were subtle, but present, the buttermilk was a clever, somewhat tart sauce in place of something creamier, and the accompanying choice of vegetables brought necessary brightness, freshness and texture to the plate.
When it came to the mains, I needed to order the baby chicken. With rotisserie expertise and locally-sourced, organic proteins, it felt almost obligatory to go in this direction. The chicken is broken down before serving, and placed amid carrots, brussels sprouts and spiced sausage. When it hit the table, our server poured over a fragrant winter truffle broth that laid the flavor foundation for every bite of the dish. It was earthy, homey, and delicate all at once. Also, I highly encourage you to save that broth and use your complimentary bread to soak it up.
Our regrettable side dish choice was the kohlrabi with fine herbs. This was easily the biggest misstep, as it was extremely salty for some reason. Not sure if it was heavy-handed seasoning or a over-reduced glaze/sauce, but in our opinion, it was inedible.
Our second main was a flaky piece of hake served over tapenade for brine, complemented by artichoke, clementine and endive. Definitely the cleanest dish of the night, highlighted by well-selected notes of sweet, bitter, and salty.
With some room left for dessert, we opted for the toasted fennel chessecake, which I would consider another can’t-miss item. Not only does the light cheesecake have just the right amount of anise flavor, but the grapefruit, sorbet and pomegranate seeds also have thin ribbons of fennel over-top that reinforce the savory undertones throughout. Not entirely sure where the chartreuse was (yellow color of the cheesecake? ribbons steeped in it?), but I’m not complaining.
It clearly hasn’t taken Narcissa very long to hit its stride. While the kohlrabi was an unpleasant bump in the road, the meal was otherwise pretty flawless. Chef Jonn Fraser seems to have an excellent handle on blending the warmth of rotisserie and roasting with the right accents to give dishes real levity, depth and cohesiveness. Would definitely recommend grabbing a seat before Pete Wells signals his approval. Enjoy!
Best Bite(s): Jerk Sweet Potato, Short Rib, Winter Truffle Broth + Bread, Toasted Fennel Cheesecake