Untitled by Danny Meyer is three years old. The glass-enclosed atrium of a restaurant, designed by Renzo Piano, remains the most beautiful piece of architecture in the Whitney, a Renzo Piano brand museum whose grim exterior recalls an oversized droid from the first Star Wars. The building sits adjacent to Santina, a glass-enclosed human terrarium of an Italian restaurant by Renzo Piano. What an inspiring time to be a young architect in New York.
I dropped by Untitled on a recent afternoon to check out the modern American cooking of Suzanne Cupps, who was the restaurant’s opening chef de cuisine under Michael Anthony; she’s since been promoted to executive chef. The initial plan was to visit in the evening, but I was running a touch late and the restaurant takes its last seating at 9 p.m. most nights. This strikes me as an early time to shutter in the Meatpacking District, and it means folks finishing up a late night stroll on the High Line will miss out on some unequivocally excellent vegetable-forward fare.
The flip side is that the kaleidoscopic hues of Cupps’ cooking come to life when natural light floods the restaurant. This is a daytime institution. And I can think of few better Sunday lunches than the roasted and fried chicken, the soft-crisp poultry equivalent of a double decker Taco Supreme (hard shell taco, soft shell taco) at Taco Bell.
This is not a new dish; I praised a different form of it in my two-star review of the restaurant. But under Cupps, the presentation transforms itself from technicolor to 4K HD. The chef paints the top layer of breast with gochujang, anoints it with scallions, and places the white meat — along with fried knobs of kaarage-style dark meat — over freeform puddles of crimson chile sauce and cilantro-kale puree.
The breast itself is neutral; the pliable skin packs a salty, spicy, poultry funk. The thigh, in turn, practically explodes in a fatty, juicy crunch. The two sauces, plated artistically, quickly devolve into a mess of haute chicken McNugget dipping sauces; they vibrate on the palate with notes of fire and sweet earth.
To say the dish is spectacular would do it injustice. It is an haute-agrarian fever dream, a melange of red and green that could recall, in the abstract, a morning rooster on fresh grass, the aftermath at the abattoir, a fireball sunset over a thatched roof. It as much as a piece of art as anything at the museum.
The chicken costs $27 before tip; Untitled is one of a handful of Meyer restaurants that hasn’t switched over to gratuity-included. I’m calling it a BUY. I’ll be back to Untitled more often, during the daylight hours of course, which quite frankly constitute virtually all of the restaurant’s open hours.
Buy, Sell, Hold is a column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a single dish or item and decides whether you should you buy it, sell it (or just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying).