Crown Shy (New York, August 2019)

In my review of our dinner at Rezdora a few weeks ago I noted that we’d managed to a table for two at prime time on a Friday despite booking just a few weeks in advance. The same was true of Crown Shy, where we dined the next evening: we managed a table for two at 8.30 pm on a Saturday without very much fuss. Now, however, Crown Shy has picked up a star in the most recent Michelin list for New York and I’d guess tables are a much harder proposition at any time. I’d also guess that my other comment at the end of the Rezdora review—that dinner at Crown Shy was quite a bit cheaper—is probably also now not going to be true much longer. What has not changed at all, however, is our opinion of the meal: we thought it was very good indeed and a very good value—the latter of which is not something I would have expected to say of a tony restaurant in Manhattan’s financial district. Here’s how it went.

If Rezdora’s location is unassuming to the point of being unfindable, Crown Shy’s is anything but. The restaurant is located in a rather over-the-top Art Deco building that puts you in mind of the Gilded Age and might make you think wistfully of revolution. The interior of the building is striking but being absolutely empty also presented a rather sterile approach to the restaurant itself. The host/hostess stand is outside the restaurant proper, looking/feeling a bit like a hotel reception. But once you’re in it’s an altogether more modern proposition and lively and warm. The restaurant, befitting the building, is large. You go in past a long bar area and find yourself in one of two dining rooms. The larger adjoins the open kitchen; the other—not very small—runs off to the side, on the other side of the wall from the foyer and the bar. Though my photographs may not give this impression, tables are set well enough apart that you don’t have to hear your neighbours’ conversation unless you really want to. These neighbours—if our visit was representative—are more likely than not to be young and fashionable (and, compared to clientele in similar restaurants in the Twin Cities, may include a fair number of people of colour).

The menu, divided into four sections, is relatively compact. On the night of our visit there were four selections in the Snacks section; four in the second course (effectively salads); six in the third course (pastas and smaller meat/fish plates); and only three in the fourth (more traditional entrees). Well, maybe 17 dishes is not that compact. None of the descriptions of the dishes in the fourth course (branzino, roast chicken, very expensive short rib for two) really did it for us and so we went with one dish each from the first and second courses and three from the third. Our server assured us this selection of five dishes would be more than enough food and she was right, especially as the meal began with a small loaf of pull-apart bread and labneh, served gratis, that was one of the highlights of the meal.

What did we think of the food that we did order? Well, the gruyere fritters from the first course had been recommended by everyone and were tasty enough but seemed out of place to us. They might be fine for a group of four or more to share but for a couple the generous portion is an overly rich and cheesy start to the meal. Would be better as a bar snack, I think. It certainly seemed redundant after that glorious bread—stuffed with olive tapenade—and felt too heavy right before the more delicate and brighter dish from the second course. This was a composed salad of tomato and peach with feta, along with pesto etc. and was just excellent.

Then followed the savoury dishes proper. First up was some excellent stuffed pasta: caramelle with chanterelles and a velvety sweet corn sauce. We might have liked this more than the pasta dishes at Rezdora the night before. Then charred octopus with chorizo over a white bean ragout that was also very good. Finally, grilled quail served over a braise of charred vegetables and freekeh (new to us: some species of young wheat). This was as nourishing/comforting as it was tasty. We were quite full at this point and decided to split one dessert between the two us. We got their creme caramel with raspberry and coconut ice and quite liked it.

For a look at the restaurant and the food, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service and to see what we made of it on the whole.

The service was much better than at Rezdora the evening before—our server was friendly, not over-assertive and consistently present. Oh yes, drinks: we had a glass of wine each. I ended up finishing the missus’s glass and so didn’t get a second—as I think I’ve noted before, she doesn’t drink much and I very rarely have more than 2 drinks in an evening. All of the above, tax and tip came to a total of about $190 or $95/head. That would be a very good price for a meal of this quality anywhere in the US but seemed like a particularly good value in Manhattan (we’d paid $130/head at Rezdora the night before and we liked this meal more). Indeed, compare this to the $105/head we just paid for a ho-hum meal at Joan’s in the Park in St. Paul.

Of course, with the newly acquired Michelin star prices are unlikely to stay at this level. Indeed, they’ve already begun to creep up. While some dishes cost the same now as they did in August others have risen in price, some up $2-3, other quite a bit more: the branzino has gone up from $29 to $33; the shortrib for two was $59 when we were there; it’s now $68. Unless this rise continues I’d say, however, that it still represents very good value for very good food. Getting a table may, of course, be much harder now.

Alright, only three more New York reports to go. Another Indian restaurant this weekend and then we’ll close the trip out next week with two more informal reports.


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