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The Early Word on Francis Derby's King

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Chef Francis Derby, an alum from Gilt, Tailor, and Momofuku, recently opened King, appropriately named after its location on 5 King Street. The antique decor and menu are both channeling old world Europe. The reviews have been mixed with some raves, some prominent shills, some references to Medieval Times, and some debate about the champagne buttons. Let's take a more in depth look at what the early patrons have to say.

The Great News: REB Eats writes a detailed account of her experience at King, with this excerpt summing it all up: "Dark wood and leather accents, wrought iron chandeliers, and sepia-faded antique portraits, emanate an elite underground society from the days of yore. Yet the staff could not be more welcoming and the cuisine could not be more progressive. The ambient historical charm only sets the platform for food - and drink - with a nouveau twist." [REBEats]

The Overall Good News: Essential Luxuries writes an in depth description of a recent meal at King, ending with: "There were many things about the King Restaurant that I liked - several of the dishes were quite unique and lovely. Others, such as the scallops and the poached apple, were not quite as strong - they lacked in flavor and consistency. I am excited, however, to return to this newcomer restaurant after it has had time to work out the kinks (which there are only very few of)." [Essential Luxuries]

The Good News: From a member at Mouthfuls: "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 light switch 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 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." [Mouthfuls]

The Bad News: An Eater commenter compares King to Medieval Times: "Went last night. Disorganized, slightly strange, poorly executed. Medieval Times was the pervasive theme, from the heavy curtains and candelabras, to the gothic, nearly illegible font on the menus. Food was disappointing and lacking distinction." [Eater Comments]

The Ultimate Shill: In response Adventures in Shilling, this commenter wrote: "I don't know why you think this is shilling, have you tried King? Chef Derby is taking some of the tricks he learned running David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar and outdoing his former boss! Everybody talks abou the Gougeres at EMP, but the beer cream here puts them over the top. Even my non-foodie friends liked the Tripe unexpected and delicious! Can't wait to go back, the whole menu sounds great and the champagne buttons are so much fun. And have you seen the brunch menu?! Hopple Popple will be hopping into my mouth next Sunday!! Standing ovation to Chef Derby and his team and thanks for choosing my neighborhood!" [Eater Comments]

The Needs Improvement News: The Food Doc thinks King still has some work to do: "Sometimes, the marriage of the classical and avant-garde works, as in the case of Mr. Derby's version of Caesar salad, wherein frisee, soft-cooked egg, and smoked octopus substituted for the lettuce, coddled eggs, and anchovies, producing a dish that is both familiar yet unique, and certainly scrumptious. Other times, the results are head-scratching, such as the tripe stroganoff, where the "creme fraiche noodles" turn out to be limp and flavorless, and do little to enhance an otherwise wonderful tripe stew. Other dishes may need a bit of tweaking: the skate was a tad too salty, overpowering the cauliflower puree; the fluke crudo needed some sweetness to balance the acidity from the citrus and the herbal notes from the fennel; the curd in the lemon tart was too stiff, and the espresso foam was bitter (fortunately, the sambuca syrup was a lovely addition); and the salted caramel creme brulee was too rich. All in all, The King is a restaurant whose food has yet to equal its ambition. In time, perhaps, and with a few improvements, the restaurant will produce a menu that embodies its objective to a T." [The Food Doc]

—Alexis deBoschnek


5 King St., New York, NY

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