Open Until: 2:00 am, 7 days
Drinking Until: 2:00 am, 7 days
Food Until: 12:00am, 7 days
April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman just axed The John Dory Oyster Bar's midnight-2am oyster happy hour in favor of a possible new late-night menu at The Breslin, provided management can figure out a way to offer twilight dining without detracting from the restaurant's popular breakfast service. Even with such a loss, The Dory's bar snacks offer a taste of the kitchen's bold flavors at a reduced price and in portions perfect for hazy, postprandial grazing.
We ambled into the Dory and took a seat in the middle of the action at the oyster bar; the two shuckers manning the bar worked in tandem, near-silent as they split shells, shoveled ice and rang the service bell for pickup. Two and three-tops filled most of the dining room, and the neon fishbowl-lit bar stayed packed with young professionals and unprofessionals alike, all chowing down and roaring at the occasional anecdote. The space has a welcome openness to it, downright airy compared to the group's other restaurants.
Snacks though they may be, portions are on the small side, but whatever they lack in heft they make up for in robust, ballsy flavors. You can always count on April Bloomfield for a swift kick to the taste buds. To wit: the Parker House roll with char pate ($9), the former a burnished-brown, glistening with butter (extra points for the cowlick-style peak at its crest). The char, served in a container the size of a sake glass, is at once mildly smoky and sharp from a good dose of shallots. Char is already a high fat content fish, so when combined with the roll, the dish rings as decadent as a plate of Momofuku pork buns.
"Umami" is a word that gets tossed around by foodies, but the carte da musica ($11) has it in spades. The crisp sandwich comes as two wafer-thin, free form crackers slicked with soft butter and layers of bottarga, the ultra-rich, ultra-briny cured and dried roe sacs of larger fish, usually tuna or grey mullet. Here, the bottarga's salinity gives it a flavor similar to smoked salmon, and again, Bloomfield tempers the intensity of the assertive protein. It's like a bagel and lox on steroids, but without the testicle shrinkage and fits of rage.
The most diminutive bar snack is the chilled crab and avocado ($7), which is served, cheekily, in a shot glass. Smooth avocado puree provides the base of dish, topped with a smoked tomato and coriander coulis and crowned with pristine peekytoe crab, as sweet as crustacean candy. These are all flavors that make sense together, and indeed the dainty taste bursts with marine freshness. There's a lot worse you could put in a shot glass and charge $7 for, just ask Drinking The Bottom Shelf's Will Gordon.
If staving off hunger is the goal, you might opt to shell out more dough for some of The Dory's larger plates—but for a late night snack with panache (and until The Breslin starts offering a late-night menu), The John Dory Oyster Bar does a damn fine job.