The Peninsula Hotel, located on the swankiest stretch of Fifth Avenue (on the corner of 55th Street), is nothing short of legendary. Along with the St. Regis across the street and the Plaza a few blocks uptown, it’s part of a trifecta of “grand-dame” luxury hotels with rich histories that date back more than a century (the Peninsula was built in 1905 as the Gotham and acquired its current name in 1988). There are three restaurants at The Peninsula — Salon de Ning, Gotham Lounge, and Clement — and we had the opportunity to take sample the three year-old Clement’s new spring menu, which left us very impressed.
Chef Remi van Peteghem’s menu is classic and refined, and the space is stylish and upscale, with well-spaced tables, friendly and knowledgeable service, and a relaxed atmosphere. Chef Remi takes a global approach on his menu, and isn’t afraid to incorporate Asian flavors, for example. He also recently introduced “Chef’s Plates” six days a week, comfort food-inspired dishes like bourbon-glazed double-cut pork chop (Mondays), duck and pork meatloaf with foie gras (Wednesdays), Maine lobster pie (Friday), and whole roasted Green Circle heritage chicken for two (Saturday).
We sampled the chef’s four-course tasting menu, which started with tuna crudo with cucumber, white soy, and trout roe. The white soy-based sauce was the star of the dish, brightened by a dose of mirin and grapefruit, helping to bring everything together. Up next was a perfectly cooked filet of seabass with tender and flavorful maitake mushroom and black kale. The skin was crispy and the fish was tender, but a roasted Peking duck broth poured over the fish was once again the star of the dish, rich with deep duck flavor as well as a hint of hoisin. Next was a 28-day dry-aged sliced La Frieda strip loin, served with tiny roasted heirloom potatoes and pan-fried scallions. The steak was perfectly cooked and full of flavor, and a rich pan sauce elevated the whole dish. For dessert, pastry chef Deden Putra’s warm apple tart with salted caramel and crème fraîche ice cream was flaky and impossible to not finish. Throughout the meal, wine director Jared Fischer kept us on our toes with unique choices like white Burgundy and a Finger Lakes red with the seabass, a Super Tuscan with the steak, and cider from Normandy with dessert.
Clement is under-the radar on a stretch of Fifth Avenue that many don’t associate with great restaurants, and with entrées averaging $32 and the four-course menu at $89 without wine pairings (the six-course menu is $125, and includes caramelized foie gras and lobster risotto), the restaurant certainly isn’t inexpensive. But the price is certainly comparable to other, far less upscale restaurants in the neighborhood, and chef Remi (who won a Michelin star at Paris’ Le Sensing) has some serious skills on display here. With service this stellar, so much attention paid to the details, a great chef in the kitchen, a warm and inviting atmosphere, and a location in one of the city’s finest hotels, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a meal at Clement is certainly worth experiencing. And for those looking for a cocktail, the adjacent Clement Bar is inviting and stylish, with plenty of creative concoctions.