Times critic Pete Wells approves of The Loyal, the latest restaurant from chef John Fraser, the guy behind Michelin-starred Dovetail and Nix, who Wells says is seemingly “in no imminent danger of running out of ideas.” It’s two stars for the “free-for-all” restaurant with “one of those overpopulated menus that borrows from brasseries, trattorias and mainstream American taverns.”
Nonetheless, he waxes poetic about many of those dishes, particularly the burger with its 22-step tomato:
Usually, I can take or leave the slice of tomato that comes with almost every burger in America. The tomato at John Fraser’s latest restaurant, the Loyal, is the first one I’ve ever met that helps the burger so much that it becomes the whole point.
Mr. Fraser calls it a “22-step tomato.” And thereby hangs a tale, no doubt, but in the interest of time let’s skip to the finished product: a peeled plum tomato collapsed down to a red cushion that more or less covers the patty. It’s juicy but not gushy, tart and sweet and complex, so it does some of the work normally done by ketchup, but it’s more dynamic and delicious.
You could eat it on its own, but it completes the somewhat austere flavor of the beef from a Piedmontese cattle breed. Even under a melted sheet of Comté, the patty is not as woozily rich as many contemporary chef-burgers.
He also enjoyed the “unrubbery” shrimp cocktail, the chicken liver pâté — which, shaped like a stick of butter and served in a glass butter dish, “is undeniably a bid for Instagram stardom” — broccoli rabe with polenta and truffles, and lamb chops with harissa rice pilaf.
In fact, he has nothing bad to say about the food. He does manage, however, to lean into the role of grumpy old man throughout the review. Wells seems troubled by the presence of millennials and the Instagram gimmicks that play to them, particularly the chicken liver pâté, loud music (“At times I wanted to stuff my ears with the Parker House rolls”), and candy-accompanied ice cream sundae. All in all, though, it’s two stars.