Former Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad chef James Kent’s first solo project Crown Shy now has the Times seal of approval. Today, critic Pete Wells doles out two stars to the FiDi restaurant, a project between Kent and Del Posto partner Jeff Katz.
The restaurant in an Art Deco space at 70 Pine St. “radiates confidence,” Wells writes — particularly highlighting the work of pastry chef Renata Ameni, an alum of Manresa and EMP. A pull-apart bread with olives is “one of the most memorable parts of the meal,” Wells writes, and her desserts, though initially appearing “uncomplicated,” taste like they have been created “intelligently”:
There’s a milky-white yogurt cheesecake under tender spring strawberries, with smooth strawberry sorbet in the center and a pistachio crumble sprinkled over that. Her chocolate tart gives her a chance to show off about half a dozen different effects she can work with chocolate, starting with a crunchy, crumbly, almost salty chocolate crust, moving on to a soft, soufflé-like filling and ending with curls of dark chocolate.
But Kent’s savory fare gets a spotlight, too. The dishes “regularly over-deliver,” from the oysters with cucumber jelly to the “almost absurdly creamy” white bean hummus with ’nduja. Plus:
Two tartares show Mr. Kent’s talent for carrying bright new ideas with him into well-traveled territory. In the first, he laces hand-chopped raw beef with toasted walnuts and earthy rye croutons; in the other, chopped raw snapper is sprinkled with individual juice-filled vesicles of grapefruit, lime, lemon and orange that pop between your teeth, a kind of instant, interactive ceviche.
There are a couple misses, like a chicken liver ragu pasta, but the grilled chicken main and a wine list with under $100 gems pushed meals back up.
It bodes well for Kent’s next gig. Later this year, the duo plans to open a much fancier restaurant at the top of the FiDi tower. The biggest thing Wells didn’t like, he writes, is the name of the restaurant, calling it “ridiculous.” “But we should probably get used to it, because we’re going to be hearing more about this restaurant,” he writes. Two Stars.