Monday, January 24, 2011

A Visit to the John Dory

That Sasha Petraske (Milk & Honey, Little Branch, Dutch Kills, etc.) is behind the cocktail program at the new opened reincarnation of April Bloomfield's fish palace John Dory would be obvious even if one didn't know the information walking in. The staff is clearly schooled in the Petraske method. The glasses are chilled. The measurements are precise, and the drinks built carefully. Most tellingly, the ice is tapped, chopped and hacked to order and by hand.

No question, Petraske brought his usual game to the restaurant, the second this season (after Lambs Club in Midtown) to stamp its drinks program with his imprimatur. But the menu itself is a bit of a departure. As I mentioned when it debuted, it's leans pretty heavy on the Prosecco and white liquors and is in general light and fruity in tone.

I paid a call recently to taste through a few of the selections. I began simply, with the Veronicocktail, which, I'm told, is named after a memorably striking waitress at Dutch Kills. It's an elemental creation: Prosecco, house made pomegranate molasses and ginger. I expected a rather slender flavor profile and I wasn't surprised. Not much more going on here than in a Bellini. But then I took a nibble of the ginger, which took the form of a candied disk perched on the rim of the flute. After a bite of the that, the drink took on more complexity. But as a garnish, the ginger became annoying and got in the way of my drinking. So I dropped it in the cocktail, hoping the same added complexity could be achieved that way. It acted like an Alka-Seltzer. The glass foamed up for a second, then calmed down. The beverage was slightly more interesting that way, but not as tasty as it had been when I bit and sipped, bit and sipped.

I wanted to see if the Prosecco worked better in a different formation, so I ordered the Negroni Sbagliato, basically a Negroni with the sparkling wine substituting for the gin. This is a somewhat common, if not widely known, variation on the classic cocktail. Oddly, the cocktail was more bitter than is usually the case for a Negroni for the addition of the wine. And the Campari was much more pronounced in the finish. It was interesting, but not a drink I'd order again in favor of an actual Negroni.

I ended with a Star Daisy (pictured), a cocktail which had recently received some attention in the Times. It was made of gin, curacao, Applejack and lemon juice. It is an austere drink, tart and acidic. There was little sweetness going on. Citrus was the primary note.

The John Dory cocktail menu is arguably different than anything Petraske has created before in that it's designed to go with food. (Petraske's various bars serve nothing to eat, and the bar at Lambs Club is rather separated from the restaurant.) So I understand these drinks probably show better alongside seafood; indeed, I liked my Star Daisy more when I drank it alongside some little neck clams. But cocktails, like wine, should stand up both on their own and as a food accompaniment. Muscadet tastes great with oysters, but it also tastes great on its own.

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