By Hugh Spencer
160 E. 46th St.
Patroon’s owner Ken Arestky is more than just a staple in the restaurant industry for a reason. As a manager of the famed 21 Club, he earned his wings and eventually, after years of greeting customers for his longtime mentors, he has taken on his own restaurant. Lucky enough (read smart enough) to go out on his own; Aretsky bought his building on East 46th Street back in the ‘90s before the huge real estate boom.
Patroon has spawned greatness in the likes of Chef Geoffrey Zacharian but ask longtime waiter Stephan about the “new” guy and he’ll say Bill Peet is the best chef to work here yet. Peet’s food is simple, the menu is simple, the presentation is even simple, but the technique and the deft of his expertise is anything but.
Crunchy toast points and a chive and chervil salad accompany the slightly acidic steak tartar. Thank you Chef Bill…it’s about time someone woke this classic up and gave it a touch of zing. Foie gras, too, is simply yet perfectly seared and served with champagne grapes (even though they were some other grape varietal than champagne). Spoil yourself on this dish and have a glass of sauterne. Never has a combination of flavors been so faultlessly matched.
Because it is so simple, ingredients stand out with this menu and the Kumamoto oysters were no exception. Silky and fresh, these West Coast gems were served with a classic mignonette (a little light on the pepper) or house-made cocktail sauce. Once again, nothing fancy, but delicious nonetheless.
The Atlantic salmon is carefully cut into skinless, boneless steaks and then attentively pin-wheeled together to make a portion that is effortless to eat and a sign that the acrobatics in the kitchen affirm the star quality and experience of the chef. This moist Atlantic specimen, cooked to a perfect medium rare, sat atop crisp green and white asparagus and was treated to a citric beurre blanc bath.
The difference between good food and great food is not how complicated the dish is but the attention paid to the components on that dish. Chef Peet takes butchering and seasoning to the extreme so that simple ingredients shine. Poorly cooked short ribs can be mighty gristly but this dark beer braised beauty is succulent.
After a major overhaul of the original Patroon, including the addition of an upstairs lounge, several party rooms accommodating six to 30 people and a roof deck, the biggest change of all is the energy Peet and Aretsky bring to a potentially stuffy location. While you can certainly bring your grandmother here, you can also bring a date.