Entries in SHO Shaun Hergatt (5)


Sifton Still Getting Hammered for Hergatt Review

Today, OZERSKY.TV is out with a video piece on why Sam Sifton’s two-star review of SHO Shaun Hergatt is so spectacularly wrong. The Pink Pig agrees, as do most commenters on the Times website.

Let us be clear about this: I would not mind the review if Sifton had thought the food or service wasn’t up-to-snuff. But that’s not the case: he acknowledged that the food was inpeccably prepared, and that the service matched.

Rather, he slammed the restaurant for not hewing to some kind of abstract “this is how we eat now” zeitgeist. I mean, it would be as if the Times music critic slammed the New York Philharmonic for not featuring the latest rock band.

I’m not naive enough to suppose that my shouting reaches the tender eardrums of the Times critic. It is gratifying to find a more influential commentator, like Ozersky, calling bullshit as only he can.


Review Recap: SHO Shaun Hergatt

I never thought that I would be quoting @OzerskyTV for review commentary, but today Josh nails it:

Sifton’s off. his. rocker. Two stars for Shaun Hergatt? Absurd. The obligatory middlebrow preening. When will this mummery end? The whole review is one big cheap shot. I’m sorry. This “fine dining is over” meme has now officially jumped the shark.”

Here’s another thing I never thought I’d say:

Come back, Frank Bruni! All is forgiven!

Bruni, lest we forget, made many of the same mistakes. But he was at least an original voice. Sifton is just lazy. The review is a mash-up of what Pete Wells wrote eight months ago.

Can we count all the ways the review is incoherent?

  • He complains that SHO isn’t locally sourced. Marea isn’t locally sourced. It got three stars.
  • He complains that SHO is old-fashioned. La Grenouille is old-fashioned. It got three stars.
  • He complains that SHO looks like it “a good business hotel in Sydney or Zurich, Miami or Bonn.” Colicchio & Sons looks like Vegas. It got three stars.

Does Sifton have any plans to be relevant? If so, Right Now would be a good time to start.


Review Preview: SHO Shaun Hergatt

Photographers from the New York Times were spotted in SHO Shaun Hergatt’s dining room last week, which likely means that it will be reviewed tomorrow. We’ll post the Eater.com odds when and if they appear. In the meantime, we offer our usual instant analysis.

We’ve dined at SHO three times and reviewed it twice (here, here). We think it was the best new opening of 2009, and easily a high-end three-star restaurant. The Times thought otherwise, relegating it to a Pete Wells Dining Brief during the interregnum between critics Frank Bruni and Sam Sifton.

We thought that Wells missed the point of the restaurant by a country mile. Yet, Hergatt should be grateful that he didn’t file a rated review. Had he done so, it clearly would have received no more than two stars, and would have foreclosed the review that Sifton is filing tomorrow.

Business has been picking up at SHO: that was not only our own observation, but that of others who’ve visited lately. Hergatt and his backers deserve credit for sticking to their guns, and continuing to offer a high-end experience, when they could very well (and quite understandably) have dialed down the concept when the economic crisis hit.

Sifton has been unpredictable, to say the least, but we assume he would not invest a review slot unless it were to upgrade Wells’s judgment. We therefore make the only prediction we can: three stars.


SHO Shaun Hergatt

Note: Shaun Hergatt left the eponymous restaurant at the end of July 2012. As of August 2012, the space was called The Exchange, with an inexpensive menu by new chef Josh Capone. That restaurant closed in April 2013. As of October 2014, it is Reserve Cut, a kosher steakhouse.


We paid a return visit to SHO Shaun Hergatt recently. Our previous visit was probably one of our two or three best meals of 2009.

The mainstream critics practically ignored SHO—including no full review in The New York Times. Despite that egregious error, business has picked up. We found it full on a Saturday evening, in contrast to our last visit, when it was practically empty.

The base price remains $69 prix fixe for three courses at dinner (à la carte at lunch), plus a flurry of canapés, amuses-bouches, petits-fours, and so forth. It is probably the best high-end restaurant deal in the city. The obligatory tasting menus have appeared: $110 for six courses or $220 for fifteen.

We ordered the six-course tasting. Our enthusiasm for the restaurant is undimmed, and as this is our second review of SHO, we’ll keep our comments brief.

We started with a trio of canapés (above left), of which we failed to get an intelligable explanation. Then, as amuse-bouche, a Kumamoto oyster with crème fraiche (above right).

The first savory course was a superb Venison Tartare (above left) with perigord truffle. We also loved a Maitake Mushroom Soup (above right) with black trumpet pavé and celeriac foam.

The kitchen sentout an extra course (above left): a soft poached quail egg with langoustine, black truffle, and cauliflower purée. This was terrific, but I must admit we couldn’t taste the langoustine, if it was there at all.

Wild Striped Bass (above right) was impeccably prepared.

We had two preparations of lobster (above left; the photo was after I’d already taken a few bites). Although the lobster itself was beautifully done, I didn’t think creamy polenta added much to the dish.

We also had two preparations of veal tenderloin (above right). The preparation with sweetbread ravioli (pictured) was much better than the one with veal tongue.

As pre-dessert (not pictured), we had a vanilla crème with orange butter, citrus segments, and chocolate. Dessert (also not pictured) was a chocolate soufflé, candied kumquats, and ice cream. This was followed by more petits-fours (left) than we could possibly eat.

Service was first-rate. The staff recognized us, but as far as we could tell, everyone got the same treatment.

The patrons filling SHO on a Saturday evening are clearly not a neighborhood crowd. Despite the lack of media adoration, the word has gotten out.

Many people thought it was a fool’s errand to open a place like SHO in the current economy, and particularly in the battered Financial District, in a building covered in scaffolding, on a street closed to traffic. Of course, most of the planning was done in the boom times, and there is little they could have done to change it—even assuming they wanted to. Luckily for us, they stuck to their guns, and opened the best new restaurant of 2009.

SHO Shaun Hergatt (40 Broad Street near Exchange Place, Financial District)

Food: ***½
Service: ***½
Ambiance: ***
Overall: ***½

SHO Shaun Hergatt on Urbanspoon


SHO Shaun Hergatt

Note: Click here for a more recent review of SHO Shaun Hergatt.

During the two years that the restaurant SHO Shaun Hergatt was under construction, there must have been a thousand times when Chef Hergatt or his investors wondered if they were doing the right thing.

SHO is a luxury French restaurant that makes no compromises—none. It’s in the Financial District, where in my working life there has never been a successful fine dining restaurant, except for steakhouses. To be sure, there haven’t been many attempts. But luxury French dining is a tough bet in any neighborhood. Did I mention we’re in a recession? 

Then there’s the name. Shaun Hergatt is a fine chef, but he doesn’t have a New York footprint: his last outing here was as Gabriel Kreuther’s deputy at Atelier. The obscure Big O in “SHO” is the logo for the Setai, a $154 million, 166-unit condo conversion on Broad Street, just steps away from the stock exchange, where apartments are priced between $815,000 and $4,425,000 [details here].

Despite the long odds against it, Hergatt and his backers have opened the restaurant they dreamed of. We can only hope that the public takes as kindly to it as we did. This is the most ambitious cuisine and the most refined service New York has seen since The Modern and Gilt in 2005–2006. Those with keen memories will recall that both were unfairly panned in the Times.

The space is stunning. You enter the luxurious Setai lobby, ride an elevator, walk past a long bar, then traverse a long corridor with wine walls on either side. and finally reach the dining rooms, appointed in soft browns and deep reds.

The two dining rooms are separated by a partition, so that each one feels small and intimate. Hergatt’s large, immaculate kitchen is open, but behind a heavy glass barrier, so that it is seen but not heard. There is also a more casual dining space at the other end of the wine corridor, which was empty on our visit, but will be used for breakfast and lunch.

Not a penny was spared to build this place, but it is tasteful and serene, not ostentatious or overdone.

At dinner, the menu is $57 for two savory courses, or $69 with dessert. With amuse courses taken into account, this is about $20 less than what the meal is worth. In an interview, Hergatt observed that the median income of downtown residents is $250,000, and they’ve all got to eat. Still, the restaurant will need to attract diners from other neighborhoods. As Amanda pointed out at Eater, Corton proves that “people have no problem spending money on excellent food right now. It just better be excellent.”

SHO Shaun Hergatt is excellent. It is better than excellent. On the strength of one meal, it is the best new restaurant to have opened in New York in at least three years. We do realize that everything can change if diners don’t warm up to the place, but the owners haven’t made any compromises yet, and we assume they won’t rush into them anytime soon. On a Saturday evening, the restaurant was half full, which is not bad on a day when the Wall Street area used to be barren.

On the prix fixe menu, there is a choice of ten appetizers and ten entrées, only a few with supplements. The presentation and cooking techniques are obviously French, but many dishes are accented with Asian ingredients. (The chef himself is Australian.)

We started with three canapés, any one of which would have qualified as an amuse-bouche in many restaurants. The beggar’s purse with caviar and sour cream, topped with gold leaf (above left, rear) was staggeringly good. The amuse itself (above right) was a blizzard of ingredients, including a tiny shrimp, served on a porcelein shell, and that sitting on a bed of salt flecked with ground peppers.

The Red Chili and Coconut Milk Glazed Quail (above left) was the only dish of the evening that struck me as underwhelming. It was a perfectly satisfying dish, but a rather simple concept compared to everything else we were served. Double Duck Consommé (above right) offered a rich broth and a raviolo filled with chicken and truffles.

Yogurt Marinated Poussin (above left) was wonderful, and I should note that the portion was double what is shown here; two extra pieces of chicken came out of the kitchen in an extra serving bowl. Veal Tenderloin (above right) was fork-tender and served with a luscious, foamy sauce.

The cheese course (above left) was more than generous: five French imports, all of which I’d happily eat again. We also loved pastry chef Mina Pizarro’s Rhubarb Tart with ginger cremeux and lychee sorbet (above right).

Naturally, there were petits-fours, including macaroons that exploded with sweet filling when we bit into them.

The portions here are arguably a bit dainty, but counting the various amuses you’re getting six courses for the price of three. At $69, this is one of the least expensive luxury fixed-priced menus in the city, and right now it is one of the best.

On the wine list, bargains are harder to come by. Most bottles are in three figures. The mostly-French list bottoms out at $55, and I believe there were only two choices at that level, with many more options in the $70–80 range. After consulting with the sommelier, we chose one of $55 bottles (2005 Thierry Germain Saumur Champigny) and were deeply satisfied. The top of the list is a magnum of 1953 Château Petrus at $15,000; the most expensive single bottle I saw was $8,000.

The service was practically flawless, with broths and sauces applied table-side and finger bowls delivered after each course in case we’d picked up quail or chicken bones with our hands (we hadn’t). Warm, house-made breads came with two contrasting soft butters, each in its own dome-covered dish. At one point, I looked up and saw that the truffle butter had been replaced with a fresh serving, even though we’d used only half of it.

There was a slight hint of over-eagerness. One runner seemed keen to figure out whether we wanted the cocktail list or the wine list; he should just leave both. The instant I picked up the wine list, a server appeared to ask if I wanted assistance. I said I would in a few minutes, after I’d looked through it. After what felt like 30 seconds, the sommelier appeared. But given the ambition of the project, one can understand their desire to please, and it shone through time after time. They even emailed us the next day to ask how we had enjoyed our visit.

A report of one visit can hardly be definitive, and we make no claims that it is. We sampled just one-fifth of the menu. Things could change dramatically if the restaurant becomes a hit, or if the customers don’t appear and it has to retrench. We can only say that this meal was very close to the best that can be had in New York.

SHO Shaun Hergatt

Food: ***½
Service: ***½
Ambiance: ***
Overall: ***½