"This would be a fantastic first date activity," was my first thought as my dining companion and I dove into Chez Sardine's miso-maple salmon head. It's as much adventure as plated dish, prompting a solid 15 minutes of excited chopstick-poking and guaranteed conversation. For introducing me to the pleasures of tender salmon cheek, I have Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly to thank, and his menu at Chez Sardine—loosely Japanese, everywhere daring, and as fun as it is impressive.
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So there's a new vaguely Japanese-inspired West Village restaurant, but there are dishes like a foie gras grilled cheese on the menu, and the uni sushi has steak tartare, and the hamachi has chicharrón... oh, and there's an excellent craft list. And the centerpiece of the menu is a whole salmon head.
In the hands of anyone else, this sounds somewhat ludicrous. In the hands of restaurateur Gabriel Stulman and chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly, it makes perfect sense.
It's clear why Gabriel Stulman taken the West Village restaurant scene by storm in the past few years, with five locations on his list of successes and one more in the works. He chatted with us about his take on hospitality, the role of family in his restaurants, and why he's excited to be getting a little older.