Diners endured hour-long waits for cuisine that wasn’t especially inventive or clever, just comfort-food classics really well made in a casual room. Nowadays, another place like that opens every week. In 2004, it wasn’t a cliché, yet.
The French-trained chef, Marc Murphy, parlayed the success to a second Landmarc in the Time-Warner Center, in the space Charlie Trotter was once supposed to occupy.
The crowds at the original Tribeca Landmarc subsided, as they always do at hot restaurants. A few years later, both Landmarcs were just serving gussied-up shopping mall food, with shopping mall service to match.
Despite training in “some of the most highly esteemed kitchens in the world from Paris to Monte Carlo” (so says the website), Murphy’s ambitions remained decidedly low-brow. His next project, a two-restaurant chain called Ditch Plains, did for the seafood shack what Landmarc had done for American comfort food. We liked Ditch plains, but there’s no mistaking what it is.
If you replicate Landmarc’s cuisine, dial up the volume, and do it well, what do you get? Welcome to Kingside, Murphy’s latest production, a big, bold brasserie in the Viceroy Hotel, a few doors down from Carnegie Hall.
No one will confuse Kingside for the bargain Landmarc used to be. Cocktails are $16, and most of the entrées—sorry, “large plates”—are over $30. These prices aren’t out of line for the location, but even after eating and drinking without excess, you’ll still be well over $200 a couple, for food that’s well made but not very memorable.
The restaurant was full by 7:30pm on a Friday evening. At the bar, I ordered a Spicy Pomona (casamigos blanco tequila, thai chile aperol, grapefruit soda), but had nowhere to drink it.
The host seated us at the so-called “chef’s counter” (pictured at the top of the post). Despite the highfalutin’ name, there is nothing special about being here—no tasting menu or interaction with the chefs. But the bar stools are comfortable, and it seems a bit less noisy than the rest of the dining room. The counter faces an open kitchen-like space, but I believe only some of the appetizers are plated here: the main kitchen hidden from view.
The menu fits on one page, with raw bar selections ($16–21), cheese and charcuterie ($10–12), small plates ($13–20), large plates ($25–36, not counting the burger, $18–19), plates for two ($65–95) and sides ($10).
The wine list runs to 100 bottles and is fairly priced. I was happy to run into an old favorite, the Wölffer Cabernet Franc ($45 for the 2010). Like Landmarc, there’s a selection of half-bottles. Wines by the quartino are a reasonable $13–15.
The bread service (above left) was a ploughmans, with I believe a burrata spread and a lego block of puréed tomato. The Grilled Kale salad ($15; above right) is as obligatory these days as the roast chicken for two, and if you have kale anywhere it might as well be this one, with goat cheese, olives, toasted almonds, and lemon vinaigrette.
Murphy wouldn’t dare put escargots on the menu (would he?), but his Roasted Snails ($17; above left) are much the same thing, and well worth a try.
Seared Tuna ($36; above right) came with wild mushrooms, braised radish, and sea beans. I liked the tangy flavor of Roasted Scallops ($33; below left) with guanciale and heirloom beans. Both entrées seemed a few dollars over-priced in relation to their downtown competition, but the kitchen at least delivered solid versions of them.
We finished up with the Raspberry Napoleon ($10; above right), a lovely dessert I’d happily have again.
Right now, Kingside is a great place to eat, assuming you buy into the premise. You’ll pay more than at comparable downtown venues, but that’s the neighborhood, and it’s not the chef’s fault. For now, he’s doing everything you could ask of him, given the parameters of this type of restaurant. All you can expect for these prices is that it’s done well, and today it is.
Servers were attentive and friendly. Someone has trained them well.
Chef Murphy was in the house, and he seemed to be working, not just schmoozing. After the reviews are in, will he just disappear and let the place drift, as he did at Landmarc? Or will he keep trying to make it even better?
Kingside (124 W. 57th Street between Sixth Avenue & Broadway, West Midtown)
Food: American brasserie classics
Service: Friendly and attentive
Ambiance: Bold and brash