Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
When asked what "Modern American cuisine" really meant, Chef Brad McDonald gave an answer that was articulate but unrehearsed: "It means taking a huge leap from a single reference point and doing something really different." This seems to be the mantra at Governor, his new Dumbo restaurant from the same team behind Gran Electrica and Colonie. It features the seasonal menu and modern technique of many spots in Brooklyn these days, but it isn't afraid to whip out the hollandaise to go with some sweetbreads and ham.
"Most chefs wish they could be cooking something other than what they're cooking," Chef McDonald explained. But a blessing of freedom for Governor means he's cooking exactly what he wants to cook: a "finessed" menu of seasonal dishes that allow him to flex some creative muscle.
McDonald owes much of this culinary ambition to previous gigs—most notably at Noma, Per Se and Alain Ducasse. Experience in the classic French tradition, he says, is shaping Governor's menu along with the edgy, highly creative spirit that those kitchens fostered. This amalgam of influences lends itself to a menu filled with somewhat unconventional, hybridized, but also "accessible" dishes.
But Governor is about more than "the bastardization of everything." It's firmly committed to farm-to-table cooking, using ingredients that are "90 to 95 percent domestic. We try to stick with purveyors between Nova Scotia and North Carolina." Governor works with small farmers in Jersey, fisheries in NC, a chicken man upstate named John Ubaldi, and DeBragga Meats here in the city. These partnerships also mean that the menu is constantly changing depending on what's available.
Though McDonald comes from tasting menu- and prix fixe-focused kitchens, Governor's menu reads more traditional, with small bites, appetizers, and entrées separated out. It's a move to keep the restaurant a neighborhood spot for locals—a little out there, but not too much.
Click the slideshow for a look at some dishes on the menu. Note that the menu changes frequently, so these may not all be available in the future.