New York’s Upper West Side is surprisingly lacking in one department: upscale fine dining. That’s why when chef John Fraser opened Dovetail in 2007 on a quiet stretch of 77th Street adjacent to the Museum of Natural History, it was viewed as a breath of fresh air, and well-heeled locals flocked to it. Ten years later, the restaurant has settled comfortably into its position as somewhat of an elder statesman of fine dining in the neighborhood (and of the vegetable-forward ethos that’s since gripped the city), and a recent visit at the invitation of the restaurant revealed that it’s definitely not resting on its laurels. In fact, it was recently awarded a Michelin star, as it has every year since 2011.
Fraser (who began his career at The French Laundry) is a master of utilizing local, seasonal produce in his new American cuisine, and it’s showcased across several different menus, many of which are vegetarian. There are three $68 three-course menus (pre-theatre, “Sunday Suppa,” and Monday vegetable focused – all three are a great deal); a $110 four-course menu (or three courses for $95); a $125 seven-course vegetarian menu; and a $145 seven-course seasonal tasting menu. We opted for the seven-course tasting menu, and are already planning our next visit.
The meal began with three amuses: a chickpea fritter, black rice arancini, and creamy egg salad and caviar in a crisp shell; all three were addictively good in their own right. Smashed avocado was topped with crispy rice and nicely complemented with red pepper coulis. Thick slices of ahi tuna crudo got an acidic kick from blood orange and crunch from toasted hazelnuts. A flawless risotto (above) was studded with big chunks of lobster, slicked with tarragon oil, and brightened with just a touch of vinegar. Tender halibut confit was smartly partnered with charred cauliflower, braised celery, and a smooth yellow curry that a great Indian chef would be proud of. Sunchoke fondue was creamy and rich, an addictive and airy puddle of pureed sunchokes, cream, gruyere, and rosemary oil offset with crisped sunchokes and sharp broccoli rabe. A slice of perfectly medium rare filet mignon and a cube of shredded braised oxtail were laid atop a rich reduction alongside a small roasted carrot topped with torched crème fraîche and sesame seeds, all draped with a roasted scallion. And for dessert, light and airy shreds of brownie atop chocolate mousse in a pool of sweet cream with a touch of black pepper were topped with even lighter crunchy honeycomb. Sommelier Amy Racine did a wonderful job of pairing each dish with an accompanying wine.
The dining room at Dovetail is hushed and elegant, with cream-colored walls, light wood accents, and subtle decorative changes to reflect the seasons. There’s also a small bar tucked away in the corner that’s cozy and intimate. Fraser and his team run a very tight and professional ship, and the servers were knowledgeable, friendly, and knew just when to appear and when to disappear. Dovetail has everything you look for in a Michelin-starred restaurant, and it’s an ideal and romantic spot for celebrating your next special occasion.