New York, NY
Hello ladies and gentlemen… I am back!!! I was brought out of my semi unintentional retirement by a restaurant that absolutely had to be written about. Let us just say that real life and what funds this lifestyle of mine had a dramatic change that needed my complete focus. The name of the restaurant that brought my hiatus to an end is Sixty Three Clinton and they are in the Lower East Side (LES). Honestly, I cannot remember the last time I was in the LES as it is a place that I generally have “interesting” and generally unpleasant experiences so I tend to shy away. This restaurant though is a small comfortable and chic space that completely transformed the feel of the street that I walked in on. With its low lighting, off white wall color and leather brown seating, I knew that I had walked in to a new addition to my “home” restaurants and where I would become a regular. Well I can only do that if I can get a reservation of course as it is a little impossible right now to get one. The feel of the clientele is grown, classy, sophisticated and mature. They are a group that gets dressed up for dinner but not in a showy manner that you would for a Michelin star restaurant… well at least not yet.
It is my humble opinion that this restaurant and these guys will get a star in no time so really try to get a reservation if you can because it will most definitely be impossible then. I have to be honest though that even WHEN they achieve their star, I do not believe that this welcoming and comfortable feel will disappear completely. This leads me to a quick but well deserved mention on the staff, I loved how passionate and personable everyone was. There was not a question that was asked to anyone that was not answered perfectly and with clarity. And believe me, we asked A LOT of questions. Chef Sam Clonts and team had undoubtedly taught themselves well and their collective passion was undeniable. Chef and his co-owner have a background of several Michelin star restaurants so obviously you know that got my ears perking. Chef has worked at Uchu and his co-owner, Raymond Trinh is from Chefs table at Brooklyn Fare where they met. These two restaurants are ones that I have never had the opportunity to visit though I REALLY want to. Alas with covid, my lifestyle of walk into any restaurant and sit at the bar for a meal has more or less been obliterated.
So what did I have, the dining style of the restaurant is a tasting menu format with add-ons and wine tasting option present. And by now you know how much I love my tasting menus. I decided to have all the add-ons as I really wanted a sample of everything chef had to offer. The cuisine of the restaurant is described as a seasonal American restaurant with global influences. This shows and is ever present in the menu from dishes like a Breakfast taco to a fusion dish of honey nut squash with barley miso. I was fascinated by the menu when I took a look and I was immediately hungry and drooling but I had a dinner companion this time who was late. I know my food and she knows her wine and she was to be the wine voice for my meal. She will most likely be a partner on these experiences that I share with you going forward so long as I can get on her very busy schedule. In the end, her participation in the meal was well worth the wait and our entertaining commentary throughout the meal was much appreciated as was communicated to us as we left which was very flattering to me. I am a simple person who just loves food, chefs and the magic that they create, so that statement really melted my heart.
Okay enough rambling. Let us get to the good stuff, the food…
The first dish was a breakfast taco with ajitama, salsa verde and trout roe. You can see that there are many elements of fusion here with American, Mexican, Spanish, Japanese and Russian all in one dish. The ajitama and roe combination with the dill was a particularly incredible bite. The flavors overall were a cohesive immersion like a beautiful symphony and in tune musical chorus in my mouth. The dish was paired with a champagne made of 100% Pinot Meunière, a grape that is typically used as a blending grape in Champagne. It had a kind of funky complex flavor when sipped on its own. That makes sense considering that it is a blending grape as it brings complexity to say a traditional Blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay). From a food perspective, this champagne cut through the richness of bite and on the reverse, the taco reduced the intensity and complexity of the wine. I have to reiterate that the biggest surprise bite on this dish though was the little dill that was on the taco. I will not ruin the surprise of what that did to the dish. You just need to go in and taste it for yourself. When you do eat it though, first bite it without the dill and compare with the dill. I assure you that it will blow your mind.
Next was the first add-on that I accepted, the caviar hand roll. This is a dish not to be missed and quite frankly one that multiple quantities should be ordered. Initially, I forgot to get a photo but I was so excited after watching chef making it table side that it skipped my mind. Luckily I had a guest who captured the dish. Seriously though, you need to order multiple of these as they are well worth the price. Plus I mean, chef has more than enough caviar to make as many of these as you want. Alas, I had only one as I wanted to save space for all the remaining dishes that were making my mouth water just reading their names. True confession, if they will let me, I would most definitely go back and just have a platter of six of these for dinner with a wine tasting. So what did this taste like and why was it so good? The richness of every bite was like you were eating an extremely rich triple cream cows’ milk butter. The richness is just so full that it fills your mouth with its flavor and your palate has no escape from its deliciousness. This too was paired with the same Champagne as the taco and it had quite a transformative to the Champagne this time. It made this complex tasting grape taste like a simple Blanc de Blanc which is my favorite style of Champagne. I was really quite surprised by this. For a dish so simple to transform in such a dramatic manner sent shockwaves through my brain and obviously palate in a phenomenal way.
The next dish was the fresh tofu with the addition of the uni. It was from Maine that day and is an optional add-on as well which as I mentioned previously I accepted. Chef as you can well imagine has many tasks when preparing for the dinner menu and one of them is to bake the bread. It is while he waits for the bread to bake that he makes this tofu. The texture of the tofu is dramatically soft and silky. You can compare it to a slightly thicker more formative custard if you can imagine that. It also came with blanched textured crisp yellow wax beans cooked with furikake. The taste of this was one of intense smokiness but surprisingly there was also the flavor of sesame being a standout. They played quite well together though even with their competition to each be dominant. On this dish, my guest and I had a disagreement where we mostly agree on everything. She felt that the dish required more smokiness while I thought it was fine. My thought was that she wanted more smoke because of the uni but let us just say we agreed to disagree and let it go. P.S. I believe that the smokiness is fine and since this is my blog, whatever I say goes. This tofu was paired with a sake which had flavors of pineapple and pear on the palate, the tropical fruit flavors of which were intensified when had together.
Next was the hamachi (yellow tail) crudo with dill vinaigrette and wasabi. I tasted yuzu on the plate but I forget if it was mentioned that there was any on the plate. As if all of the dishes were not spectacular, this one gave me a food orgasm. That is right, it gave me the eye rolling in the back of my head, sit back, close my eyes and just experience all the flavors developing in my mouth. The powerful flavor of the crudo gave a similar experience to the handroll, that is to say that this was also melt in your mouth buttery. The differing element here was that you had the texture of the fish which was firmer than all the components of the roll. In this dish, the dill vinaigrette brought a refreshing and natural vegetal salt that was quite welcoming to the palate.
At this point in the night, I started to get very selfish as I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I just wanted to enjoy my meal, not take any notes plus the wine that I had had so far was starting to kick in. However, I realize that someone has to do this so forgive my brevity of description going forward. Next we had the black cod with smoked daikon radish. I am not the biggest fan of cod so I was definitely a bit apprehensive. Every time I have had it is over cooked and has this odd after taste but that was not the case here. It was perfectly cooked, retaining its firmness and yet still flaky. There was a dark and rich sauce that it was drenched in which removed the after taste of cod that I usually despise. I am not sure what exactly was in the sauce but the density of it was that of one which was rich and thick like a reduced soy sauce. The daikon radish also brought a different dimension of flavor with its slightly crisp texture and mild pepperiness. I was worried about the red peppers atop the dish since I was not sure if they were red peppers or chili. As I have mentioned on many occasion, I am not a fan of spice as it messes up my palate for the entire meal. I am still not sure what kind of pepper this was but it was completely mild and very flavorful.
The next dish was intensely wonderful to look at and more so to eat. I am a sucker for great presentation on a plate and this certainly hit the mark. This was the honeynut squash with barley miso, nori and hazelnut. When I was done eating it I wanted to carry up the plate and lick it but bread was provided for just that. Apparently this is a feeling that past guests had felt as well after the dish. I had to forego the bread though as that naturally bloats me and I still had more dishes to eat. When I have complex dishes made up of many components, I always try each component on its own before eating it all together. It is my stand that each component should taste great on its without having to lean on the other parts for support. In this case, the simple flavors of preparation of each of the component of the dish was mind-blowing. The squash was so tender that the knife was unnecessary. The nori provided that jump of funky and flavorful salt seasoning. And the hazelnut brought texture and that unique flavor that this nut naturally has. I think they toasted or roasted hazelnut here as well as they did not taste raw to me. When all components were tasted together in one bite, it took a few moments for all the flavors to meld together but once they did, I felt ecstasy. This was another food orgasm moment with my eyes roll in the back of my head and just let the deliciousness wash all over me.
Now the next dish was absolutely special. So special that I apologize, I have nothing to tell you. This was the pork short rib with mistake mushrooms and caramelized shallot. As I attempted to cut it with a fork and knife, it was unnecessary as it just fell apart. I took a bite and decided that it would be futile to attempt to stem my selfishness to take notes and just eat it all instead. My mouth was filled with such delicious flavors that I said to myself, “commentary be damned”. The mushroom looked like it was slightly crisp as though there was a slight breading that it had been coated in. In all honesty though, I really did not focus on the mushroom since the short rib was so good.
Finally, I very sadly came to the end of the meal. And what an end it was. I am still dreaming about that dessert. It was the strawberry and peach pie with greek yogurt ice cream. This dish is apparently dedicated to his mother and I believe it to be quite the tribute to any mother. Maybe we should make this a national mother’s day gift to all mothers around the world… it was that good. It had the perfectly warm temperature that I desire in a pie. Not too hot or cold, just right. The crust on the bottom as well as the topping had this softly crunchy and firm texture, and not at all soggy which gets on my nerves with pies. The meld of the natural sweetness of the strawberry and peach is one that is not to be missed. This is undoubtedly the best pie that I have ever had in my life… and I cannot stress enough how much I really do not like pie at all. Finding the crust on the bottom of the pie to be soggy and unappealing and the fruit to be overly sweet in most cases, I generally just steer clear of this dish. That was most definitely not the case here. I really hope he starts selling these pies whole even if it is just for the Thanksgiving holiday rush as this is something that I believe everyone needs to eat.
So there you have it. The restaurant that brought me out of retirement. I hope I have convinced you to make a reservation and go in to have such a phenomal evening. If for nothing else but to have conversation with the welcoming and passionate staff. This is a restaurant that must not be skipped. And if this does not convince you, maybe this will. Be nice and stay till they close and chef will come out. He must have just been very happy that night because he gave all of us a huge scoop of caviar on the hand to enjoy. Of course we all fist bumped before enjoying the scoop and it made me happy to my heart. I cannot wait to go back… if I can get a reservation of course