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SHO Shaun Hergatt: I Need a Thesaurus. Now.

Luxurious. Over-the-top. Opulent. Extravagant. (Just like this long review.)

All of the above words describe The Setai’s relatively new restaurant in the Financial District. Perched in an expansive space on the second floor of the luxe hotel, SHO Shaun Hergatt brings refined fine dining to Wall Street that isn’t garbed as a steakhouse. The emphasis is as much on the look of the place as on the extremely haute cuisine prepared by Austrialian up-and-comer Shaun Hergatt.

Sleek and contemporary, SHO Shaun Hergatt is divided into a bar, a lounge, a wine room, a main dining room, and an ‘open kitchen.’ After approaching the hostess stand at the end of a moody red corridor, you encounter the glittering bar with impeccably dressed bartenders waiting quietly for your cocktail order. The lounge bumps shoulders with the bar showcasing windows looking out over Broad St, low slinky sofas, cocktail tables for two, and plenty of space to hobnob with power players. Through the lounge, you’re taken down a corridor lined with wine bottles, all encased behind plate glass. A long and narrow pool of water extends down the center of the corridor, reminiscent of a wishing well. The wine passage has a table off to the side for private dining and wine dinners.

The main dining room itself is modern and sultry with scarlet walls and East Asian art, Sanskrit writings, and abstract sculpture. On the far end of the dining room, more plate glass exposes the bustling and industrial kitchen. White table cloth tables and large leather chairs you can sink into add the necessary touches of luxury to this newly-minted Michelin 1-star restaurant.

The food is modern French influenced by Asian flavors. It is complex, unusual, and beautifully presented. Focus is not only on how good the food is but also on how good it looks. The lunch menu offers the choice between a 3-course prix-fixe for $30 or the far more expensive a la carte menu. Unless you’re looking for a gut-busting wallet-destroying power lunch, the constantly rotating prix-fixe is by far a better deal.

The 3 colleagues and I all opted for the prix-fixe menu, starting off with a chilled pea soup with morels and mint and the Austrialian Hiramasa carpaccio. The soup was perfect for summer and ill-fitted for winter/spring. Cool and refreshing, it was delicate and soft, utterly lacking in anything potent or bold. The Hiramasa carpaccio was also delicate with mellow fish, flat-tasting accoutrements, and a tasty wakame puree. Both options walked the line between very good and average, lacking in anything truly memorable.

For the second course, we got the Artichoke Ravioli and the Poussin. Finally, in the ravioli, were there savory pronounced flavors. Slinky and slippery ravioli shells were stuffed with red peppers and coated in an addictive puree that could have consisted of anything from peas to more artichokes to spinach and anything in between. While not mind-blowing, it was a satisfying pasta dish. The poussin was the main event, delicately wrapped and de-boned, served with crispy coxcomb; it was mellow, juicy, subtlely flavorful, and a lovely example of the type of elegant food SHO Shaun Hergatt prides itself in. The third-course desserts were what one should really write home about though – gorgeously constructed without a single element out of place, these pieces of art looked just too pretty to eat. Of course, this did nothing to stop me, and thank god for that – the desserts were just perfect. In each intricate dish, the kitchen did nothing but blend gorgeously sweet, savory and salty together with bursts of citrus, chocolate, and ginger.

In such an haute restaurant, the service can be nothing but pristine – and so it was. Pretentious and tight-lipped, the wait staff moved like a well-oiled machine and practiced classic table service etiquette (such as serving plates over the left shoulder). Staff seemed to wordlessly intuit when a water glass needed to be filled or more bread was wanted.

SHO Shaun Hergatt withholds nothing and yet is as reserved and coiffed as restaurants come. No expense is spared (and is kindly reflected in the ludicrously expensive cuisine), and each guest lavished with attention. Despite it’s urbane modernity, SHO Shaun Hergatt reflects back to an era of fancy restaurants with fancy people, fancy looks, and fancy good that often seems these days to be long-gone.

Perfect For: gut-busting and wallet-busting dinners, deal-making lunches, special occasions, impressing out-of-town food fanatics

SHO Shaun Hergatt on Urbanspoon

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