If a gun were to our heads and we had to choose whether it was the great service, comfortable, stylish vibe, or good food that we most appreciated about 273 Kitchen, we’d have to choose the service. The passion General Manager Christopher Creedon has for his job oozes out as he moves around the modern and earthy wood and stone room, checking on tables and chatting just enough with the patrons who want to. We ordered one wine, and he told us excitedly about another we might like—and then he gave us a taste. When we couldn’t decide between two starters, he helped us settle on one—and he sent us a taste of the other. This kind of customer service pays off; on our second visit, we ordered his recommended wine, but we also just felt so well taken care of. Ultimately, isn’t that what you want at a restaurant?
Of course, the best service in the world can’t make up for subpar food, but that is no worry here. With the exception of desserts and one dish, the food was as appealing as it was interesting, and it certainly was always beautifully presented.
The Montauk fluke crudo symbolizes all that is best about the food at 273 Kitchen. The delicate fish was served with barely pickled Rainier cherries, topped with intriguing crunchy “fennel crumbs,” and drizzled with a sumac-laced vinaigrette. Yes, the dish was pretty; yes, we liked that the ingredients felt so clean and pure; and, yes, we loved the creativity—but, best of all, we loved the delicate flesh of the fish against the crunch of the crumbs and the subtle bite of the sweet pickled cherries against the brackish turmeric oil.
The yuca frites also exemplify Chef Constantine Kalandranis’ slick combination of elements from many cuisines: Cubes of light and crispy fried yuca were piled over
a smoky sauce flavored with chipotle peppers and topped with crunchy lime-dressed onion.
Not all dishes were as complex as these—and not all needed to be. In a dish that celebrates the best of summer foods, simple roasted king salmon with a crunchy layer of seared skin and moist, tender flesh was served over crisp-tender green and yellow summer squash and cherry tomatoes.
It seemed that might be what the kitchen was going for with the stuffed squash blossoms, but this dish fell flat. The texture was as it should be, with a crisp beer-batter coating and creamy filling. But the feta-ricotta stuffing tasted only of sharp feta, and the accompanying zucchini purée was bland.
Ricotta cheese fared better in dumplings that were like light gnocchi, served with luscious lobster butter, cut with the herbaceousness of basil and the intermittent bite of tomato.
Hopefully by the time we go to press, the Hudson Valley duck leg will still be on the ever-changing menu. The confit, with crackling sable-colored skin and deeply savory meat, was served on creamy polenta with baby yellow squash, zucchini, and chanterelles, and drizzled with just enough sweet-tart balsamic syrup to provide counterpoint. But the pièce de résistance of the dish was the perfectly poached egg on top, which yielded to the first touch of the fork and blanketed all with golden yolk.
The industrial organic interior includes ceramic tigerwood floors
A fun poached Caesar was also topped with a poached egg. This dish combined the best of a French bistro salad—the lovely poached egg that spills creamy golden yolk over the leaves—and classic Caesar flavor, with pecorino vinaigrette.
If all this sounds too good to pass on, rest assured that, with the reasonably priced four-course prix fixe (oddly listed on the menu as three courses plus dessert), you will be able to sample many of the dishes (especially if your dining companions are good sharers).
At least one person at the table should order the Wagyu burger, with its surprisingly resonant meaty flavor. Not only is the meat great, but it’s served with a lively harissa yogurt dressing (that knocked our socks off) as well as super crisp and perfectly salted hand-cut fries.
As impressed as we were with appetizers, sides, and entrées, we were a little disappointed in most of the desserts. Cubes of rosemary olive-oil cake, topped with thick, sweetened yogurt, were too dry to enjoy. A warm brownie with chunks of halvah sounded good, but the chocolate obscured the flavor of halvah, leaving us wanting either one or the other. Chia rice pudding and panna cotta were better, but they were still not at the level of the starters, sides, and entrées—or the warm and engaging service.
Food: 3.5/4 | Service: 4/4 | Atmosphere: 3.5/4 | Cost: 3/4
273 Halstead Ave