By Don Douloff, May 29, 2008
Typically, hotels aren’t top-of-mind for cutting-edge cuisine. Looking to turn that axiom deliciously on its head is the Jumeirah Essex House Hotel, nestled on New York City’s tony Central Park South. Earlier this year, the hotel launched South Gate restaurant, marking the completion of the property’s $90-million renovation undertaken by its owners, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality-management group Jumeirah. But for food lovers, here’s the headline: helming South Gate’s stoves is star chef Kerry Heffernan.
Heffernan made his name at such top New York restaurants as Montrachet, Le Régence, Restaurant Bouley, Mondrian and One Fifth Avenue, where, as chef de cuisine, he worked with Alfred Portale, who went on to pioneer ‘tall food’ at New York’s Gotham Bar & Grill. In 1998, Heffernan was the founding chef of Eleven Madison Park, which earned oodles of kudos and currently holds three stars from New York Times critic Frank Bruni.
Heffernan, whose name has practically become synonymous with Modern American cuisine, continues that style of cooking at South Gate. “There will be a sense of the seasons, what I call the privilege of time – being able to observe and experience the transition,” he says.
His culinary creations reflects his ambitious agenda: seared fatty albacore with eucalyptus, lemon zest and crisp garlic; warm mosaic of parsnip, beet and celery root with fleur vert and styrian pumpkin seed oil; white eggplant coulis with wild oregano and eggplant napoleon; hot-smoked Arctic char with grapefruit, olives and thyme; salsify bouillon with chicken and foie-gras sausage, sage, bread dumpling; lobster and leek vinaigrette with cardamom and dill seeds.
Complementing his ambitious food is a sleek interior created by designer Tony Chi, of Tony Chi and Associates. To his credit, Chi had very specific ideas as to how the space should evolve. “I wanted to create a place that is for the neighbourhood, an urban tavern with varying levels of intimacy and cultural synergies,” he says of the room.
Two private dining areas, the Gallery and the Studio, are available to host groups. The larger and more luxurious of the two rooms, the Gallery accommodates up to 80 for seated events and 100 for cocktail parties. In contrast, the intimate Studio features a communal table accommodating up to 20.