If you’ll forgive a gross generalization, chefs tend to fall into one of two camps. There’s the tortured artiste type that prefers to hole up in the cramped comfort of a closed kitchen, tending to their sauces and avoiding most outside interaction, and another that enjoys the spotlight, preferring to foster an up-close and personal relationship with their customers and experience, first hand, their appreciation of his or her food.
Prospect’s chef Kyle McClelland falls into the latter category. He championed the idea of a Chef’s Table at the popular new Fort Greene restaurant, where up to eight participants can perch on barstools set along an expansive marble countertop, that peers directly into the aperture of the bustling open kitchen. Sure, you can hide away in a corner booth with a Wagyu beef burger, some truffled popcorn, and a Mendocino Brewing Company Talon Double IPA (all excellent), but when you have a talented chef so open and eager to cook for you, how can you say no? As long as you’re not a shrinking violet, it can be a great way to spend a meal, especially if you’re dining alone as we so often do.
A five-course tasting menu will take you into the dark wilds of McClelland’s unbridled imagination, where self explanatory dishes like Nantucket Bay Scallops and Meatloaf Sandwiches are abandoned for a Fried Blue Point Oyster served on the shell, perched on a bed of black salt, and topped with an XO Gribiche and Caspian Golden Osetra, and Butternut Squash Soup — which cradles Espresso Marshmallows, Hazelnuts, and a savory Root Beer Cream. And thank goodness the chef is at the ready to walk you through a plate of intriguingly named “Nitro Foie Balls,” an exercise in molecular gastronomy that incorporates Winter Citrus, Meyer Lemon Cake, Poppy Seed Crumble, and Orange Snow. Eating this way definitely forces the diner to ask questions, investigate ingredients, and take time to appreciate the nuances and subtleties of each component. Because honestly, how can you shovel food in your mouth and then get lost in a haze of texting after you’ve watched an entire team of chefs painstakingly plate your dry aged Sonoma Squab for at least ten minutes, nesting the tiny bird atop sworls of red beet puree, and garnishing it with celery root, pan roasted trumpet mushrooms, caramelized brussels sprouts, and whole roasted carrots crusted in onion ash?
It’s just the kind of occasionally fussy food detractors tend to roll their eyes at, but we have appreciation for. Who needs a bunch of talented chefs and restaurants in some downwardly mobile comfort food competition, when we’re more than capable of making a decent burger, some pretty good meatballs, a roast chicken, and even, if we’re so inclined, a passable braised short rib with mashed potatoes in the privacy of our own home? And for the fraction of the price? So as long as we’re spending our hard earned money on an evening out (and until our landlord lets us get a nitrous oxide canister), we’ll continue to look forward to the highflying fare at Prospect.
773 Fulton St, (718) 596-6826