This is the time of year when many restaurants start launching new menus for spring and summer. I recently had the opportunity to try new menus at two places. The first one was Finn & Porter, the restaurant bar at the Hilton Hotel on 4th Street, where Chef Peter Maffei has certainly something good going on. You don’t hear his name so often – hotel chefs don’t get the sexy media treatment that independent restaurant chefs do – but this young man knows how to combine flavors and textures to create very pleasing dishes. Here are a few highlights from my tasting. (NOTE: instead of taking blurry shots with my phone, I opted to ask their PR company for some professional shots, so not all the dishes I loved are pictured.)
This dish was amazing. The octopus is cooked sous vide so it’s melt-in-your-mouth tender, then grilled to give it a crispy texture. The shaved fennel, radish and beet are lightly dressed, adding a tangy freshness and crunchy consistency as a counterpart to the richness of the octopus. Brilliant.
This salad was a surprise. The asparagus are tender-crisp, the toasted hazelnuts add depth and crunch, and the egg just makes it. Pretty much spring on a plate. I wish I’d had some bread or maybe some polenta to sop up the luscious miso and egg yolk mélange from the bottom of the plate.
Although I have chosen not to eat tuna unless I’m sure that it comes from a sustainable source (which is very hard to know) I really enjoyed this dish. Even more than the fish itself, I went crazy for the wild mushroom and grape tomato salad it came with. The fresh morels and dainty Japanese mushrooms were toothsome, and the sweet-tart tomatoes the perfect foil. And I love pickled mustard seeds on just about anything.
I also loved the crispy-skinned roasted branzino, served on a bed of artichoke hearts, shaved fennel, heirloom tomatoes, and Kalamata olives, tossed with an anchovy vinaigrette. The Mediterranean flavors are the perfect accompaniment to this fish, which is popular in the region. And the spring lamb duo – perfectly cooked chops and crunchy croquettes made from braised shanks – was absolutely superb. The white beans, grilled carrots, butter pea puree, and tzatziki contrasted beautifully with the richness of the lamb. And for the love of dessert, please save room for the Greek yogurt panna cotta.
With so many new places opening, one tends to forget tried and true favorites. Go check Finn & Porter out sometime – I was definitely not disappointed. Hit happy hour Mon-Fri from 5-7pm for half price signature sushi and appetizers, plus half price wines by the glass. Or go on a Friday and enjoy half price on all bottles of wine all night to make your dinner date more affordable.