It's rare that a serious restaurant hits the ground running as successfully as Alsatian-born chef Gabriel Kreuther's eponymous establishment has managed. Kreuther cooked under fellow Alsatian Jean-Georges Vongerichten and then at Atelier in the Ritz-Carlton New York before earning attention and acclaim at The Modern, Danny Meyer's fine-dining-plus-casual-bar-food venue at the Museum of Modern Art. He left the last of these early in 2014 and last summer opened this place, a gorgeous dining room (in an unpromising-looking 42nd Street storefront), given a suggestion of rustic charm with massive timbers salvaged from a barn in Vermont and suffused with warm, soft light. Here, Kreuther crafts exquisite plates in a style that owes much to his native territory, much to the freedom of imagination a chef of any provenance in modern-day Manhattan enjoys, and much to his first-rate raw materials, whether they come from Long Island, Nova Scotia, or Hawaii. Dishes are presented with lapidary precision, sometimes almost sculptural on the plate, but the manipulations aren't visual indulgence: They help emphasize the contrasting flavors and textures of the food. At first, looking at the foie gras terrine and black truffle praline with muscat gelée and seven-grain toast, the diner may not discern which element of the dish is which; digging in, though, reveals all — the creamy duck liver, the earthy perfume of truffle, the sweetness of the gelée, the subtle crunch of the toast.
The parts of the sturgeon and sauerkraut tart with American caviar mousseline, which comes to the table in a halo of applewood smoke, are more immediately identifiable, but the ingredients blend into one complex, delicious bite after another. Halibut with celery root and hen of the woods mushrooms in riesling–cockle sauce; organic poussin with bread pudding, cardoons, black trumpet mushrooms, and licorice jus; a juxtaposition of chocolate mousse, blackberry gelée, and lemon verbena merinque — this is simply some of the best cooking in New York. There's a bar area with its own menu, too, a menu so varied and smart (Mangalitsa morcilla potato salad with parsnip purée, saffron gnocchetti with king crab, red-wine-braised tripe tratiné with Puy lentils) that it could anchor a first-class restaurant of its own. Service is skilled, and the wine list — though bereft of bargains — is very impressive, above all in the excellent vintages of Alsace.