This week, I visited Narcissa (21 Cooper Square, 212-228-3344), the well-groomed farm-to-table restaurant in the Standard East Village hotel where John Fraser lets his DOH-approved hairnet down and transforms vegetables in a kitchen full of Rotisol rotisserie ovens. It’s the sibling restaurant to the chef’s flagship venture Dovetail (103 West 77th Street, 212-362-3800), a handsome, Michelin-starred New American place plugged into the ground floor of an Upper West Side townhouse.
Dovetail’s four-course dinner prix fixe is roughly $115 after tax and tip. That jumps to a cool $209 if you factor in wine pairings, which makes the $32 three-course brunch a particularly great deal, joining the ranks of lunchtime steals like Del Posto’s $39 affair and Bouley’s five-course tasting for $55. For less than most pairs of pants, the restaurant’s buttoned-up service and restrained elegance in the kitchen make brunch at Dovetail a serious detour.
As at dinner, the weekend meal begins with a quartet of canapés: candy-sized truffled arancini, house-cured salmon tea sandwiches crowned with saline roe, shots of smooth, creamy sunchoke veloute, and cups of greek yogurt so thick it eats like sour cream, completely drowning out the slivers of grape and granola that accompany it. Dovetail also puts together a wonderful bread service, in this case tailored for brunch with infallibly soft blueberry muffins and sweet corn biscuits served with honey butter.
Some brunches skew heavily towards breakfast, but Dovetail generously provides an even split between the first meal of the day and lunch, giving meaning and purpose to an otherwise soulless endeavor. My table went the lunch route this time, but you should know that Fraser puts together a mean French toast. This painterly plate of herb-flecked pappardelle came adorned with slightly charred broccoli, mushrooms, and olives in a rich sauce with poppy seeds, which coated the wide pasta ribbons like a buttery exoskeleton. The olives’ acidity lent the dish an almost citrus-like tang.
There’s a cheffed-up dry-aged burger on the menu, as well as steak and potatoes for a supplemental eight dollars, but my party couldn’t resist ushering in spring with a perfectly crisped chicken breast anointed with that harbinger of the season, ramps, which hugged the dish edge as if afraid of the tart yuzu buttermilk that filled most of the plate. Onion scapes and buttermilk are the backbone to any good ranch dressing, and the yuzu complements both sharp flavors.
A miniature dessert tasting ends the proceedings on a high note with demure buttons of rhubarb crumble, chocolate torte, and citrus panna cotta. Simple but focused, the flavors and textures all complement each other. As Narcissa’s older sibling, Dovetail sets a fine example.