The Ace Hotel opened in 2009 and gradually added varied layers that have helped to cement the venue as what might be Manhattan’s foremost hipster haunt. Fashionable New Yorkers and tourists flock to the hotel to write or hang out in the cavernous lobby bar, drink coffee from Portland import Stumptown, grab offbeat sandwiches at No. 7 Sub and indulge in hearty pub food at The Breslin. The Breslin (and Spotted Pig) chef April Bloomfield and business partner Ken Friedman previously ran a high-end Chelsea seafood palace – also called John Dory – and their new incarnation is more reasonably priced, more user friendly and is probably the Ace’s most interesting concept yet.
The space is glass-fronted on the west and north sides, with counter seats facing the street. John Dory also houses high-top copper tables, a copper bar top and fish imagery everywhere. Twin globe fish tanks flank either end of the bar and seashell light scones hang on walls.
A raw bar showcases oysters, shellfish and decorative thatches of seaweed on a bed of ice.
Mid-sized Mermaid Cove oysters ($3 apiece) originated in Canada and appeared on the half-shell on a bed of ice with horseradish and mignonette. This was a light starter that didn’t blast us with brine and prompted the table of Mayers (my friend Ben and his family) to order another round.
A punchier starter turned out to be the Parsley and Anchovy Toast ($4), crisp slabs of bread slathered with an herbaceous, salty topper.
Crudo was a strong suit at John Dory Oyster Bar, not only due to the high-quality fish, but also thanks to Chef Bloomfield’s clever flourishes. For Example, Hiramasa Crudo with Ginger ($12) involved thick slices of rosy yellowtail, a judicious amount of spicy ginger and bits of crispy fish skin.
Thin-shaved Long Island fluke ($12) appeared with sweet-tart sheets of honey crisp apple, grated pine nuts and celery leaves.
Our unanimous favorite “starter” turned out to be razor clam ceviche ($11) which was nice and tangy, with a smear of chive puree that anchored the tender clam to the bottom of the cazuela.
Char pate sandwich ($11) featured pink-hued, house-smoked fish (similar to trout) folded with creme fraiche and herbs and served on wheat bread. This certainly had more flavor (and moisture) than a standard tuna salad sandwich, but it still wasn’t nearly as compelling as other menu options.
Mussels Stuffed with Mortadella ($14) had flavor to spare, featuring plump shellfish complemented by clusters of minced mortadella (an Italian pork cold cut) in a tomato based broth.
Shellfish and pork once again hooked up, yielding Chorizo Stuffed Squid ($15) with intense smoked tomatoes and tiny white beans that added an earthy base note to the fairly spicy dish.
Maine Lobster Chowder ($14) was sprinkled with parsley, packed with chunks of sweet lobster, dotted with olive oil and featured a rich, savory flavor that was damn near intoxicating.
March 22, 2011 at 4:44 PM
Looks amazing! can’t wait to try it