In his latest review, Pete Wells is bringing King back to the memory of New York diners, that white-hot October opening that seems to have cooled over the last few months. In what is actually the first major review of the Soho restaurant, the New York Times critic has almost nothing negative to say. Here are a few key one-liners:
On two different halibut preparations: “I’ll eat either dish again in a minute if the chefs give me a chance.”
On the comparisons to London’s River Cafe, where both of King’s chefs used to work: “Anybody who’s eaten at that restaurant or has gone to bed with one of its cookbooks will experience occasional flashbacks at King.”
On the finese of chefs Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer: “Once you get past King’s debt to River Cafe, what you really notice is how many little moves they know that can raise a recipe from good to exceptional.”
On mind-reading: “Every other dessert was just what I wanted, even when I didn’t know I wanted it.”
But the big takeaway from Wells’ review is how Shadbolt and de Boer are mastering a simple vision. He writes:
To be won over by King, it helps not to expect things you’ve never seen before. Even those meeting saltwort for the first time will find that the rest of the meal looks familiar. What Ms. de Boer and Ms. Shadbolt offer is not a wild vision of new ways to cook but a solid vision of how to eat. They put pleasure at the table above gymnastics on the plate. For reasons I don’t want to understand, I associate this trait with other female chefs around town, including Rita Sodi, Missy Robbins, Gabrielle Hamilton, Sara Jenkins, Angie Mar and April Bloomfield, another River Cafe alumna.
Oh, and maybe don’t order the tiramisu. Wells writes it was one of a very few things that was a miss among hits, noting “It went too heavy on the espresso and too light on the mascarpone.” Two stars.