County seemed to check all the right boxes for a modern day New York City restaurant. A quick read of the website shows all the right keywords – “local, seasonal, market fresh”. Seeing that ABC Kitchen was such a huge success in the Gramercy/Flatiron area, it’s makes business sense that the former chef of the Jean-Georges restaurant stick with a similar style, a couple streets away.
County is located on the same street that houses Gramercy Tavern and the former Veritas. From the outside, it may not look as grand as its Michelin Starred neighbors, but the creative use of decorative lighting and mirrors make County a cozy and comfortable dining space.
On this particular weeknight, the restaurant was buzzing with after-work patrons. Something became immediately apparent that the place looked short staffed for dinner service. Water was often left unfilled, and empty plates sat idle for longer than expected. I later found out that there were some unplanned absences that evening, so what was experienced was far from the norm.
The meal started with a charcuterie plate. The three types of sausage measts (Wild Boar, Chorizo, Napoli) were served with pickled vegetables, honey and mustard. Flavor wise it was a satisfying mix of meats, although I had hoped for more contrast in textures.
The other starters we sampled were the cauliflower soup, which was made creamier with raclette, and a dash of chili oil provided a small amount of heat. A solid bowl of soup to warm you on a cool day.
The salmon tartare wasn’t quite what I expected. The meats were served on friend pieces of sushi rice, which overwhelmed with flavor and texture of the fish. On top of that, add shaved horseradish, sesame, and sauce. The presentation almost looked amateurish, like something you frequently see at asian fusion restaurants in the suburbs.
Luckily the entrees redeemed the meal.
The house made cavatelli shined with lemon breadcrumbs, braised kale and pork ragu. With each bite you get an assortment of flavors from the savory and sweet pork, to the lightly bitter kale and the refreshing lemon. The pasta was perfectly cooked, a great combination.
The black cod, served with aromatic sweet onion puree, also worked acidity beautifully with pistachio vinaigrette. The pieces of fish were thin but nicely cooked to a flaky yet tender consistency. The roasted beets and cauliflower puree provided a bit of sweetness.
All in all, County holds a lot of promise. There’s a bit more flair and variations compared to ABC Kitchen, but also lacks a bit of the consistency. The experience also showed how precise a restaurant’s operation needs to be, as one or two absent staff members can seriously undermine the rest of the operation.
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34 East 20th St
New York, NY 10003
Disclosure: The meal was complimentary, though this fact did not impact my opinion, nor was I required to write about the experience.