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#1 Jesikka

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 04:22 PM

Francis Derby has finally landed again- this time with his own spot on King Street. They're opening very quietly, but the place was packed last night. They're calling the food Old European or some such, but I'm not really sure what that means and I wouldn't have particularly thought to describe it that way. I guess calling food farm to table is getting old, but it is basically ingredient driven whatever...

We tried most of the menu-
I started with a really xmasy gin cocktail called Tomorrow, Yesterday which I thought needed a bit more acid or was maybe just heavy on the Pimento Dram. Not bad, but not something I'd order again.

For the table: Pickled Grapes Mojama and Radishes with Honey Butter- Mojama turns out to be an incredibly fishy preserved tuna. Kinda weird with pickled grapes. I love pickled grapes, though. A radish and honey butter appetizer turned out to be exactly what it sounds like. I'm not sure I need to dip my radishes in honey butter....

We ordered the radish with honey butter and the pickled grapes with mojama for the table and then I started with a sweetbreads appetizer that I thought was fantastic. The sweetbreads were fried with a pickled celery and celery root salad with pickled pears. Really awesome use of acid. For my entree I had the hanger steak with hasselback potato, escarole and bone marrow dressing. I was expecting the bone marrow dressing to be more exciting than it was- basically a vinaigrette with little bits of bone marrow. The hanger steak was perfectly cooked (if standard) and the hasselback potato was awesome. To be frank, I was a little soused at that point (having gotten unused to drinking more than a glass of wine with dinner), so the details are a bit- shall we say blurred? Hopefully Sneak will fill in what I've left off.

We seemed to have a lot of waiters helping our table but they didn't get our white wine out in time for our appetizers, which was too bad. All in all, they seemed a bit clueless about wine service. However, they did take the entire cost of the white off our bill, which I thought was overly generous. I'm not sure if we were comped anything else, but Francis did come out to say hello at my tipsy request.

An interesting and baffling detail- every table has a lightswitch which can be triggered for champagne delivery. We triggered the switch (before we knew exactly what it was) and a waiter came over about 20 minutes later to ask if we wanted something. According to Francis said they'll have a lot of champagne choices in the future, when they're able to fill out the wine list a bit more. A bit like calling over a stewardess...

All in all, a very good meal with mostly hits and a few neutrals. The food is much more interesting than what Francis was doing at Shorty's 32. I think it will be interesting and exciting to watch them find their feet here.

#2 Sneakeater

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 04:38 PM

Jesikka forgot the table's rabbit/pork terrine, which was exemplary. Interestingly, it came topped with some kind of sweet/herby gook -- and unlike virtually every other case in history, this time the sweet/herby gook actually made it better.

My appetizer of Tripe Stroganoff tried too hard. It's the kind of thing that, when you see it on a menu, you have to order it. But then, when you're eating it, you wonder, "was this combination really necessary?"

The roast duck main dish, OTOH, was simply very very good roast duck. This is far from easy to get right -- and I fear that, with duck as the New Pork, we're going to see a lot of poorly prepared, dried out, flavorless duck in the coming year. This wasn't that. Not at all. (Let me also give shout-outs to the current iteration of the roast duck dish at Lincoln -- the best yet -- and a perfect perfect perfect roast duck that the excellent Richard Farnabe served as a special in the Soho Grand on Christmas [I won't even mention the fabulous game pie he served as a special appetizer that day].)

The dining room at King is frankly awkward: it's a converted railroad flat, and feels cramped. The bar area -- converted from another apartment -- seemed pleasant, though. And the old-timey decorations are nice.

I get the impression this place is still feeling its way. There's no question Fran Derby can cook, though, so I for one am going to follow its progress with great enthusiasm.
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#3 Daisy

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 04:38 PM

I read about the 'champagne button', I think on Eater. It's a ridiculous idea for a restaurant like the one you describe. Maybe they should add a few sparklers to the champagne service, like at The Box.
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#4 Sneakeater

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 04:39 PM

Not having read that Eater thing, I just thought it was a call button for the waiter. At a place like this, that wouldn't be a bad idea.
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#5 Wilfrid

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 04:53 PM

I saw the tripe stroganoff and champagne button on Eater too. What happens if you press the button by accident?

#6 Jesikka

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 07:43 PM

I saw the tripe stroganoff and champagne button on Eater too. What happens if you press the button by accident?


It's a light switch, not a button, so it would be hard to do that. However, I'm sure people will set it off all the time who aren't actually seeking champagne.

#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 07:59 PM

What happens if you press the button by accident?


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uprjmoSMJ-o
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#8 oakapple

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 10:35 PM

I have now gone twice (blog post here). The cuisine, on its face, isn't going to turn many heads, and some of the more interesting dishes from the opening menu (tripe stroganoff; pigs head tortellini) have been dropped. Francis Derby can cook, and if he can get you in the door, you'll probably enjoy your food, especially in a place where nothing breaches the $30 barrier.

But there's no doubt that people look at online menus before deciding whether to visit, and the menu NOW doesn't have a lot of "I Must Have That" dishes. One of those that remains is the Chicken & Rabbit Pâté that Sneakeater mentioned. This could go on Bar Boulud's menu tomorrow.

Of course, it's worth noting that Derby cooked at Atlas, Gilt, WD~50, and Momofuku Ssäm Bar. He is certainly not trying to outdo his mentors here. This is American bistro food, well executed but not spectacular.

There is the small matter of the decor. No one would call King elegant, it has many of the amenities lacking in about 95 percent of new restaurants these days: tablecloths, a comfortable bar, reservations accepted, coats checked, a civilized dining room. It’s a superb, quiet date spot. I liked it, but to some diners it may seem old-fashioned. Some of it, I think, came from rummage sales, although Ken Friedman built a whole empire that way.

So I am hoping this place succeeds, but if you look at Fran Derby's C.V., it quickly becomes apparent that two or three years is a long gig for him. You'd like to hope this won't be another short-term job.
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#9 Jesikka

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 03:33 AM

I have now gone twice (blog post here). The cuisine, on its face, isn't going to turn many heads, and some of the more interesting dishes from the opening menu (tripe stroganoff; pigs head tortellini) have been dropped. Francis Derby can cook, and if he can get you in the door, you'll probably enjoy your food, especially in a place where nothing breaches the $30 barrier.

But there's no doubt that people look at online menus before deciding whether to visit, and the menu NOW doesn't have a lot of "I Must Have That" dishes. One of those that remains is the Chicken & Rabbit Pt that Sneakeater mentioned. This could go on Bar Boulud's menu tomorrow.

Of course, it's worth noting that Derby cooked at Atlas, Gilt, WD~50, and Momofuku Ssm Bar. He is certainly not trying to outdo his mentors here. This is American bistro food, well executed but not spectacular.

There is the small matter of the decor. No one would call King elegant, it has many of the amenities lacking in about 95 percent of new restaurants these days: tablecloths, a comfortable bar, reservations accepted, coats checked, a civilized dining room. Its a superb, quiet date spot. I liked it, but to some diners it may seem old-fashioned. Some of it, I think, came from rummage sales, although Ken Friedman built a whole empire that way.

So I am hoping this place succeeds, but if you look at Fran Derby's C.V., it quickly becomes apparent that two or three years is a long gig for him. You'd like to hope this won't be another short-term job.


Isn't this the first place that has been his?

#10 oakapple

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 11:39 AM

Isn't this the first place that has been his?

Yes.
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#11 Jesikka

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 06:01 PM


Isn't this the first place that has been his?

Yes.


Well, I would assume that's a key differentiator (as we say around the office) in terms of his likelihood of staying longer. I suspect that the food will get more exciting- not less- as he finds his feet and develops a loyal clientele. I haven't lived in that exact neighborhood in many years, but I know that good options right in the vicinity were desperately lacking back when. Of course, my budget wouldn't have enabled regular visits to King back then, though it is at a very reasonable price point for what it is.

#12 oakapple

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 06:31 PM



Isn't this the first place that has been his?

Yes.

Well, I would assume that's a key differentiator (as we say around the office) in terms of his likelihood of staying longer.

I found it a bit curious. I always look up the history of the chef when I am writing a review, and I don't recall seeing anyone who had moved around that much before starting his own place. I am not going to speculate as to the reasons, but it is certainly not the norm.

I suspect that the food will get more exciting- not less- as he finds his feet and develops a loyal clientele. I haven't lived in that exact neighborhood in many years, but I know that good options right in the vicinity were desperately lacking back when. Of course, my budget wouldn't have enabled regular visits to King back then, though it is at a very reasonable price point for what it is.

It depends what one considers to be "that exact neighborhood". This is the western edge of Soho, and half a block away from the southern edge of the Village. There is certainly no lack of dining options within easy walking distance. I have no predictions about where he will go with the cuisine.

I agree with you that it is a very reasonable price point for what you get. But low introductory prices often do not last if the place is a success.
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#13 Sneakeater

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 06:57 PM

Nowadays, you'd have to say King is right near Rouge et Blanc, The Dutch, Blue Ribbon, Raoul's, etc.

(Of course, we Outer Borough types might be more used to walking a few blocks than hard-core Manhattanites.)
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#14 Orik

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 07:04 PM

Of course, it's worth noting that Derby cooked at Atlas, Gilt, WD~50, and Momofuku Ssm Bar. He is certainly not trying to outdo his mentors here. This is American bistro food, well executed but not spectacular.


Wasn't he also the chef at Shorty.32, where the cuisine was also surprisingly just steak-frites-ish? Could be management driven of course.

The font used in their online menu is most unfortunate, by the way:

http://thekingny.com/main/dinner/
I never said that

#15 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 07:37 PM

Wasn't he like the co-chef at Shorty's?

He was also at some Bar Veloce-like place for a very short stretch, right?
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