The Three Hens, which opened in September, did not set my pulse racing. The proffer of “American comfort food with a twist” is a story we’ve heard before. A lot. But I occasionally have evening events in that part of Murray Hill, so it went on the list, waiting for an opportunity to visit, and last Friday night we finally got around to it.
The neighborhood is often called Curry Hill, for its many Indian restaurants. The Three Hens feels a little out of place, but the owner, Shiva Natarajan of nearby Dhaba (and Chola in midtown), knows the area, and probably wanted to keep an eye on it.
There’s no hint of Indian cuisine here at all. The chef, Colin Cruzik, cooked in a similar idiom at Jo’s, which we rather liked, but he and the owners parted ways over disagreements about the direction of the restaurant. (I got the sense that Cruzik, a Bouley and Nobu alum, was trying to take it in a more upscale direction than the owners were comfortable with.)
The menu, as promised, is upscale comfort food, and not terribly expensive, with appetizers $10–17, soups & salads $7–14, burgers $12–14, pastas and entrées $13–24, and side dishes $5–9. There’s the now de rigeur footnote that ingredients are sourced locally, organically, and “responsibly.”
It makes the review less interesting when we both order the same thing—but that’s what we wanted, so it’ll have to suffice: the lamb burger ($16). The meat had a strong, rich taste, although the bun was a bit too big for the patty. The fries were superb, perhaps the best we’ve had all year, with the exterior crunch exactly right.
We didn’t have wine, but the bar makes a good rendition of an Aviation.
The dining room has wooden tables and metal chairs, but there are broad picture-windows facing onto 23rd Street, and there will be an outdoor café in good weather. The walls are painted a slate gray except for one alcove that sports a leafy green pattern. There are several indoor trees, with bare-bulb chandeliers overhead.
We were about 20 minutes late for our reservation, and I wondered if they’d hold our table. You never know how it is with new restaurants. I needn’t have worried. It was empty at 6:20 p.m. A few parties wandered in before we left an hour later, but it was nowhere close to full. On a Friday night, that’s worrisome.
Lacking either a name chef or the sort of menu that attracts critics, The Three Hens will have to build a reputation the old-fashioned way: slowly, and by word of mouth. They’ve certainly earned a repeat visit from me.
The Three Hens (115 Lexington Avenue at 28th Street, Murray Hill)