New York, New York
As fans of Top Chef, we are often left wondering what becomes of each season’s winner. With their much publicized editorial feature in Food & Wine, the appearance in Aspen and cash from Glad, what have Harold, Ilan, Hung, Stephanie and Hosea actually gone on to do?
Last night, we got a chance to see and taste with dinner at Perilla, the West Village restaurant — named after the tangy, mint-related herb that the Japanese call shiso — opened by the inaugural Top Chef, Harold Dieterle, following his win and subsequent celebrity in 2007.
Inside the skinny New American restaurant, diners sit at zebra wood tables and red leather banquettes lit by Tolomeo chandeliers. Dieterle designed the place as a neighborhood spot but judging by the crowds — and the fact that a Saturday night reservation is recommended three weeks in advance — it’s clear that Perilla continue to benefit from the stardom of its chef.
We arrived on Jones Street at 8:45 p.m. and were shown to our table near the back. After ordering a reasonably-priced bottle of Cava Brut, we decided to split Dieterle’s signature dish: spicy duck meatballs with mint cavatelli, water spinach & quail egg. It did not disappoint, as the egg added to the richness of the sauce and balanced the spice of the meatballs.
I’m not one to typically order chicken while out to dinner but Perilla’s roasted speck-wrapped organic chicken — served with salsify, asian pear, walnuts, tatsoi & pomegranate molasses — was delicious. The smoky speck (basically a German prosciutto) went well with the sweet molasses; and the crunch of the bed of walnuts added an interesting texture.
Charlotte’s sauteed trigger fish was also a hit. Served with heirloom tomatoes, quinoa, wood ears, sweet & sour eggplant-basil sauce, the John Dory-like fish was cooked perfectly.
For dessert, we couldn’t resist s’mores, an amazing reinterpretation of a campfire classic. The chocolate bar was replaced by a dark mousse and topped with toasted marshmallow & crispy graham cracker. As if that wasn’t decadent enough, there was also a scoop of chocolate gelato.
Our server was friendly, attentive yet non-obtrusive. And we really enjoyed the lively atmosphere which was buzzing but not deafening.
So, what do Top Chefs do in their post-reality television lives?
If they’re anything like Dieterle, they open pretty darn good restaurants.