*Warning, the following post is quite long*
Kevin was excellent, fully living up to my expectations, which were high. I have heard Kevin compared to Spring, one of my favorite restaurants in the city, and, surprising, it lives up to, and possibly even surpasses, that comparison.
Four of us arrived at 6:45 for a 7pm reservation. When I noticed the bar was full, even though there were a few empty tables I immediately flashed on the Chowhound thread about being asked to wait in the bar as opposed to being immediately seated. Not the case at Kevin, the host politely escorted us to a comfortable table in the main room and we were off and running.
My wife and I had not seen our friend Jill, who is the dean of a culinary school in Birmingham, for 7 or 8 months and, initially, we were more interested in chatting than perusing the menu. Jill's colleague Susan was quite interesting as well and it was a good fifteen minutes before we even glanced at the menu. Our waiter, much to his credit, read the table and gave us a bit of space.
After a bit of conversation and a round of drinks we were ready for the menu, and an excellent menu it was. Kevin's menu does not fall into the hyperbole trap of many 'upscale' restaurants, you know the type, where the provenance of each item is lovingly detailed.
(~~Daffy duck breast, sliced on the bias with a left handed Global sashimi knife, surrounded with figs from San Francisco's Mission District, scattered with a chiffonade of Melman lettuce and glazed with a wild raspberry reduction consisting of 82-year-old Bolivian balsamic, verjus from Catskill Mountain Vineyards and wild hand picked raspberries organically grown on Tommy Lasorda's upstate NY Slim Fast Estate.~ ~)
The amuse-bouche consisted of a dime sized soft shell crab with a slightly crunchy ginger glaze served with a toy thimble shaped gelatinized grapefruit essence reduction, absolutely incredible. (Dime sized soft-shells, what a riot)
After reading Rob's description of the Tartare of tuna appetizer I simply could not resist temptation, nor could our friend Jill, and we were well rewarded. Perfect tuna, pickled cucumber and seaweed along with a hamachi salad with wasabi. The wasabi was actually a small off note in that Kevin used what is commonly referred to as wasabi, (horseradish, mustard oil and food dye) as opposed to the real root, though interestingly actual grated root was used with my Big Eye Tuna entree. Our dining companions had, surprisingly, never tasted fresh wasabi root and were amazed at the noticeable difference.
The other appetizers ordered were:
"Sautéed sea scallop layered with foie gras, watercress and a foie gras chawan mushi in a mushroom reduction." The fresh foie gras was excellent and the foie gras chawan mushi was interesting and delicious.
"Sautéed soft-shell crab and lobster-crab spring roll in spicy cilantro sauce with tomato and garlic aioli." This consisted of a large soft-shell crab and a nice sized spring roll cut in half. I had a small taste of the crab, which was quite good.
We shared two salads;
"Arugula Salad in a walnut oil vinaigrette with tomato, chives, onion, sheepsmilk camembert and toasted pistachio." Very fresh, very nice.
"Grilled asparagus salad in balsamic black pepper vinaigrette, roquefort crusted goat cheese and a coulis of strawberry, black pepper and rosemary." Nice blend of flavors, assertive, complex, yet went well together as a whole.
"Seared big eye tuna and sea scallops in yuzu dressing with pickled ginger sushi, daikon, gobo, shiitake mushrooms and fresh wasabi." This was one hell of an entree, rare salmon with a huge flavor, fresh wasabi, citrusy yuzu and a perfect sea scallop. Top of the game from a right on the mark chef.
"Roasted wild king salmon in a ginger-chive broth with wild asparagus, morel mushrooms, tomato, potato and spinach." Excellent salmon, seldom have I tasted a more succulent piece of salmon. The stripes of white fat running through the king salmon lent a rich almost beyond belief full beautiful flavor to the fish. Another interesting aspect of this dish was the wild asparagus. The wild asparagus had tight, almost bran like buds and an earthy flavor, very different from normal asparagus. The stalk was thin, and the asparagus buds started a bit lower on the stalk, it looked a bit like a straight fiddle head fern.
"Sautéed breast of duck, confit leg and moo shu pancake with mushroom, tart cherry and napa cabbage in star anise sauce." Excellent duck breast, but even better confit. The confit was crisp, succulent and aromatic with a five spice-anise aroma and flavor, truly delicious. The moo shu pancake with mushroom was quite good as well, with the mushrooms having a deep rich flavor from a long slow sauté.
"Roasted pork chop in black walnut-mustard crust on goat cheese polenta in marsala sauce with wild ramps." Here are those pesky wild ramps again, I wonder if Trotter, Tramonto, Achatz and Shikami got together and ordered them by the case. All in all this was my least favorite entree, though in a lesser restaurant this would be a winner. The pork chop was perfectly cooked, retaining a slightly pink center, but over all the dish did not light my fire.
We ordered a 99 Brochard Chardonnay, which was a bit musty for my taste and were also served a gratis round of the house Chardonnay with our appetizers, which I liked quite a bit. When serving the Brochard our waiter noticed that the bottle had not been chilled, so while we were waiting he brought us a round 'on the house', a nice move even for a professional waiter in a good restaurant.
"Chocolate sorbet in white chocolate soup infused with orange and rosemary." Very good, the rosemary was a nice accent.
"Chocolate trio of flourless chocolate cake, black pepper infused creme brulee and chocolate mousse served with creme fraiche sorbet." A flavorful dessert, but the real winner of the trio was the black pepper infused creme brulee, a great combination, just savory enough to off set the sweetness.
"Apple Cake topped with apple mousse and apple ice cream with sweet red wine reduction." Good, though this did not knock my socks off.
Cheese Course consisted of 4 decent sized wedges of cheese, Brillat-Savarin, Reblochon, a very tangy blue and ?, I simply forgot the fourth cheese. The cheese was served with thin sliced green apple and the house bread, which is a French style with a slight natural starter tang and a medium crust. I must say that I was quite pleased with the cheese course, but then Brillat-Savarin is one of my favorite cheeses.
Hummmm, what else? When we asked for salt we were served a three-bowled dish with Fleur de Sel, Tellicherry pepper and Malabar pepper, a very nice touch. The silverware was also quite interesting, but I am at a loss as to describe in what fashion, partially due to the fact that exactly how it was designed is now escaping me, suffice to say it was interesting, but not in a distracting way.
I also noticed that the portions were on the large size for a restaurant of this type.
The room was well appointed the table's set far enough apart so as to make for both civilized seating and conversation and, in general, Kevin is a pleasant space to be in.
I highly recommend Kevin.
9 W Hubbard St.