If you’re too lazy to read the rest of this article, as I tend to be fairly long winded with my restaurant reviews, then this following sentence will sum it up for you nicely. The dinner at Betony was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
Do read on.
If your mental image of fine dining is the dining room at Restaurant Daniel, Betony pushes your visual senses. The lofty dining room, split into two levels in the back, features a soaring bar on one side and exposed brick wall on the other. The textured concrete ceilings showcases the same patterns as the carved wooden trim. What’s really shocking is that this visual punch is already very much toned down from the previous iteration of the space Brasserie Pushkin, when owner Andrey Dellos tried to bring his Russian concept into New York.
The folks tapped to relaunch the restaurant are General Manager Eamon Rockey and his fellow Eleven Madison Park alum Chef Bryce Shuman. I first heard Eamon Rockey’s name when he opened Compose, which Jessie raved about in her review. He was also instrumental in relaunching Compose as Atera, perhaps a quality that Dellos sought for the Betony project. For Chef Bryce Shuman, this is his first solo effort after years behind the scene as Executive Sous Chef of Eleven Madison Park.
From the moment you interact with the maitre d’, you can sense the staff’s experience in hospitality. Conversations feel warm and personal, but with an undertone of professionalism. It feels as if you’re talking to a friend, who’s sole purpose of the evening is to be helpful. It’s an atmosphere you only find at the top restaurants, one that the management likely carried over from EMP.
The menu layout resembles the one at Eleven Madison Park – a grid. The biggest difference is that there’re numbers below each item, because Betony serves dishes a la carte. What this means to most people is that you can budget your meal when you order, rather than budget your income only to splurge on a tasting menu. Even that, the prices are actually quite reasonable: entrees are mostly around $30.
Then there are the drinks. For the most discerning drinkers, the cocktail program at most fine dining establishments are lacking. After all, it tends to be in the interest of the restaurant for the patrons to splurge on the $300 red. One notable exception was Eleven Madison Park, which featured an outstanding cocktail program. Naturally Betony carries over the tradition, and puts the large spacious bar to good use. The cocktails have such complexity that it’s on par with many of the city’s top craft cocktail lounges.
From the left most column of the grid menu, the shared bites are tiny bite sized creations that set the tone for the evening. First to arrive was the potato chips with creme fraiche and chives. The chips looked deceptively simple, but had really clean and focused flavors. Marinated trout roe on a scoop shaped piece of puffed rice mixes savory elements with clean flavors of diced cucumbers.
The bone marrow is quite creative. While most restaurants serve marrow on the split open half-bone, the marrow here is extracted and placed inside a half-tube shaped cookie, baked to resemble a bone. Brilliant creativity in presentation.
The drinks we chose to start the meal were The Ellison and Ward 8. The former was clean and refreshing, but beautifully balanced so that there’s always just a hint of cucumber without it overpowering other elements. Ward 8 was a fantastically complex bourbon and citrus creation.
As an intermission of sorts, tomato puree and savory “snow”. Delicious mix of flavors, texture, and temperature.
The fun with liquid nitrogen continues into the appetizer. Determined to order the simplest sounding dish, the cucumber salad consists of 4 different types of cucumber, sliced paper thin, rolled into flower shapes and topped with frozen buttermilk and caraway vinaigrette table side. While there wasn’t as much of a variation between the four cucumber types as I would have hoped, the dressing was truly impressive.
As a huge fan of silverfish, sardines and tomatoes was a must. The preparation of the fish is very much influenced by Japanese cooking, but instead of a heavy vinegar and soy marinade, the chef used tomato water for a clean taste, and to complement the fresh tomatoes on the plate. If you like sardines, or other silver fish that isn’t afraid of being a bit fishy, this plate is a sure winner.
Before entrees, our waitress came by to ask if we’d like to get another cocktail, and mentioned that Eamon Rockey has selected drinks for us that would flow best with our first drink, and the meal. At his advise we ordered the Pisco Sour, which had a glorious egg-white based foam. The Orange Julep in crushed ice was a powerful drink that mellowed out as the ice melted. The orange flavors from the bitters and Oleo Saccharum (citrus based sugar oils) matched the rye whiskey beautifully.
For entrees, the lobster arrives in spectacular fashion, topped with a heaping mound of dill. Just as you wonder how you can reach the lobster under all the greenery, the wait staff arrives to pour lobster bisque through the dill onto the plate. Once the dill is removed and taken away, you have a beautifully finished poached lobster in beans and broth. The lobster is poached perfectly.
While the world continues to rave about the chicken at Nomad, another EMP offshoot. I found the chicken at Betony to be simpler yet superior. The bird is brined lightly, roasted on the bone, and carved before it’s finished. The end result is a simple, moist, and flavorful dish that elevates the chicken breast to new levels. The thigh meat is then presented in a separate small bowl mixed with greens and grains as a confit.
For dessert, the blueberry parfait was spectacular. While you only get a puck shaped parfait, it’s plated beautifully and the blueberry flavor pairs great with osmanthus scented ice cream.
Before the meal was completely over, Eamon Rockey arrived once again to suggest two sweet specialty cocktails – one which resembled Baileys, and the other Kahlua, albeit both reverse engineered with the highest quality ingredients. Heavy cream from Pennsylvania, whiskey, and a specialty sugar formed the imitation (and so much better) Baileys. The coffee liqueur was cold brewed Stumptown coffee with bourbon and sugar.
On just the merits of the food alone, Betony would have been near the top of my list in New York. Add the fantastic service, fair prices, flexible menu, and phenomenal craft cocktails, it’s every bit deserving of the highest rating.
What does this rating mean?
41 West 57th St
New York, NY 10019