SHO: Shaun Hergatt
40 Broad Street, 2nd floor, New York NY 10004; map); 212-809-3993; shoshaunhergatt.com
Service: First class, effusive and precise
Compare to: Bouley, Corton, Eleven Madison Park
Cost: 3-course lunch prix fixe, $30
"You're standing in a fire wall!" barked the officer with the bomb-sniffing dog. Jaywalking is not usually an issue in New York, but on Broad Street, you should probably stick to the sidewalks. I was attempting to get to SHO: Shaun Hergatt, located in the heart of the Financial District, behind police cordons and scaffolds. It is as awkward a restaurant to get to as it is to pronounce—and a little too far south for many fine diners to consider. (It really doesn't help that you can't pull up to the front in your limousine.)
If the restaurant was located in Midtown, it might garner a little more attention, which I think it deserves. Shaun Hergatt is a talented chef, and while his rococo expressions (and indeed the room) might hearken to a more gilded age, the menu has evolved since SHO opened last year—and has been influenced, in a positive way, by the seasonal, local zeitgeist of the times.
It's an unabashed fine dining restaurant, with doting service and crisp white tablecloths. Hergatt is classically trained, but incorporates Asian flavors in to his cooking. The decor is a fusion of sorts as well—it looks like a high-end opium den, with its red walls and quasi-tribal accents. (If the Samurai armor featured in Tim Burton's interpretation of Batman (1989) were a restaurant, this would be it.)
But the food is ultimately what's important, and the food at SHO: Shaun Hergatt is simply beautiful—bordering on the effete, but also seriously delicious. Things get off to a good start with the bread, alongside a potato rouille redolent with saffron. As lovely as it is, don't skip the butter—impossibly creamy, an AOC import from France. It might be a minor point, but it speaks to the attention to ingredients shown throughout the menu.
A venison carparccio comes sprinkled with ground salt, sprigs of young basil, fried capers and shaved Parmesan. Denser and earthier than beef carpaccio it has an almost chocolate-like flavor—dark and nutty.
To accompany the venison, a green salad dotted with micro daisies that add herbaceous notes as well as a surprising and pleasant bitterness to the dish.
A Chatham cod comes glazed with a crust so crisp and golden that the dish looks like a creme brulee. The cod was flawlessly cooked, balancing a buttery tenderness with a firmness that added textural complexity. Served with wilted bok choy and some intensely pungent morels, it was a wonderfully conceived and executed dish.
The dish costs $28 on the lunch menu, and it's worth every penny—but order the lunch prix-fixe, and you get two additional courses for just $1 each—$30 for the three courses.
But there are other options for the mains, including a duo of porky goodness—roasted loin and a sous-vide belly with Du Puy lentils and baby Romaine, wilted as expertly as the bok choy in the cod dish.
A Nashi pear tart with glazed kumquats and chestnut ice cream makes for a pleasing conclusion to the meal.
And petit fours, as wholly appropriate—this is a serious restaurant with serious food.
Prior to my recent lunch, I had not been to SHO: Shaun Hergatt since last summer, when I was working on the Making of Shaun Hergatt's Golden Egg. We shot the pictures during lunch and the place was sparsely populated. Not so this week, when the place was more than half full at almost 2:00 PM. I am glad those diners made it through the barricades and bomb-sniffing dogs—and I think you will be as well.