Colicchio & Sons: Worthy for Tom, Worthy for Me
Tom Colicchio’s major new flagship venture isn’t perfect, but it’s close to it. The subject of many foodie debates and critics’ reviews, Colicchio & Sons exceeds my tempered expectations not only in atmosphere and service but also in quality of food. Sure, Tom Colicchio of Top Chef fame has harped on and beaten to death, in all of his restaurants, the concept of locally-grown seasonal American cuisine; yet, though this style is no longer neither pioneering nor original, when done right, it produces some damn tasty food.
In the corner space of a massive highway-side building on 15th and 10th, Colicchio & Sons is designed with the industrial vibe of the Meatpacking District in mind. It is cavernous and airy, with window after paneled window, warehouse-height ceilings, and all sorts of both spindly and substantial pipes slithering across the ceiling. The restaurant is technically two separate dining areas with completely different menus. The front room, complete with lacquered wood tables for two, a sleek back-lit bar, an open kitchen, and a wood-burning oven, is called The Tap Room and is meant to be Colicchio & Sons more informal dining destination. The back room, separated off by a floor-to-ceiling semi-translucent wall, is formal dining with waist-coated staff and grand tables for parties small and large. The entire space is impressively sound-proofed with all sorts of acoustic trickery so that, despite the almost ballroom-like size, individual conversations can be heard and understood without much screaming and shouting.
The menu is extensive, the ingredients expensive, and the food complicated. Tom Colicchio, as he has made himself famous for, delivers multi-layered and occasionally over-wrought seasonal and local American cuisine. (You know it’s local by the obnoxious explanation of where each ingredient is from on the menu.) Aside from the precious little pretensions that pepper the menu, the food ranges in quality from very good to excellent to transcendent. The fresh pork belly, served thick, crusty on the outside, tender on the inside and with an unusual spiced caponata, is so luscious that it’s pushed me to reluctantly ignore pork belly’s trendy over-saturation of New York ‘haute local’ menus and indulge. The bi-color corn agnolotti is equally good, cooked perfectly soft and served in a generous pool of thick, creamy and satisfying sauce, arranged in a golden halo and accented by earthy summer truffles.
Perhaps one of the best dishes offered though is a simple dessert that riffs playfully on the classic PB&J; the caramelized banana cake is delivered warm, bathed in a gooey caramel sauce, topped with a fluffy peanut butter mousse, and accompanied by a punchy Concord grape sorbet. It’s nostalgic and comforting, a surprising reminder of home, despite its fancy pedigree. Other notable dishes include the highly unusual hearts of palm salad that challenges with crisp verdant notes and citrus highlights and the earthy lamb loin, served slightly bloody and on the bone with a delightful fennel gnocchi for brightness, tomato confit and baby zucchini. Both are studies in successful marriages of flavor and texture, color and creativity.
Colicchio & Sons deserves more credit. It’s unclear whether it’s inconsistent battering in the press is a result of Chef Colicchio’s ubiquitous TV personality or perhaps his insistent pretensions on local ingredients and returning to the kitchen. Regardless, Colicchio & Sons underlines why it’s namesake chef won the James Beard award for 2010 Outstanding Chef; the restaurant is elegant and chic, appropriate for its location, haute without a dress code; the staff deserves a 10 out of 10 for seamless service and attentiveness; the food is sophisticated yet familiar and original without being so funky as to alienate more conservative diners. Looking for an alternative to stuffy fancy dinners? Try Colicchio & Sons – it is refreshingly friendly while continuing to maintain a more formal sophistication.
Perfect For: birthday blowouts, impressing a first date, feasting with fancy friends, feasting in general, fancy foodies, stalking Tom Colicchio, client dinners and sell events