What do you do with a Chelsea restaurant that’s not living up to its full potential? If you’re Jeff Kreisel, who took over as executive chef at Pounds & Ounces in that neighborhood last month, you give the menu an injection of lighter, healthier fare, focusing your attention on Greenmarket produce and well-sourced protein. “It’s a beautiful space,” he says. “It just needs some direction and guidance to bring things to the next level.”
His vision was honed by years in the biz here. The chef started his career as a teenager stacking pizza boxes for $4.75 an hour. Later, he enrolled at Johnson & Wales in hopes of going pro. He moved to NYC and landed a job at now-closed Mercadito, where he “went up pretty quickly through the ranks,” he recalls. “I had a lot of passion.” That passion helped him eventually make his way over to Porter House, where he stayed for four years. After that, “I finally decided to do my own thing,” he recalls, and he took on two executive chef roles–one at Hotel Chantelle on the Lower East Side and the other at Long Island City’s Penthouse808–which had him traveling back and forth between Manhattan and Queens daily for two years.
Fed up with that lifestyle, he jumped at the chance to revamp Pounds and Ounces and got to work immediately on rewriting the menu, starting almost completely from scratch. “The whole dinner menu is new,” he explains. “We still have some burgers, but we’ve added lighter fare and gluten-free options, and we’ve focused on seasoning properly, portioning properly, and sourcing very locally.” He cites, by way of example, chicken liver pate with pickled ramps and truffled salt; herbed cured salmon with beet couscous, crème fraiche, and summer corn blinis; and a grilled kale caesar salad. He’s making fresh mozzarella every day and pairing it with heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market, and turning out a watermelon salad with ricotta salata. He’s doing a playful take on a surf-and-turf, serving seared sushi-grade tuna with duck fried rice; because of his steakhouse experience, he’s focused on upping the quality of his beef and added a dry-aged porterhouse to the list.
Still, old fans of Pounds & Ounces will find some familiarity in the dishes. “I’m not turning it into a Chinese restaurant; I’m just offering people more variety and emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and letting these ingredients speak for themselves,” he says.
Hit the next page for photos of the new dishes.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 24, 2013