Most consider The Dutch’s menu to be American Nouveau, but the meal I had for lunch Restaurant Week transcended the globe. And to be perfect frank, I didn’t mind. Everything was so clean, fresh and flavorful that you begin to think its natural for Chile Cornbread to pair with Yuzu.
The Dutch is a Soho exception. The tourists generally stay away, and foodies in suits and casual clothes flock to one of The Dutch’s three dining rooms. Each provides a different experience, creating the illusion that you can get a new experience each trip. The front is bright and loud, with the windows wide open, letting the cool summer breeze fill the room. Off to the side, another room is filled with well dressed women occupying the bar and understanding their purpose and reason for being at a place like this. Finally the back room, where I sat for my meal, is quieter but more for the food loving few, allowing for the opportunity to stare into the half-open kitchen and have lower, rhythmic music playing in the background.
Restaurant Week attracted a large, diverse crowd on a Tuesday afternoon. Attractive, young men in suits sat at a table next to elderly couples in their Sunday’s best, while a middle-aged duo of women escaped the suburbs for lunch in the city. I had a prime people watching seat, sitting on a plush, leather bench lining the back wall, right next to the window. The room is bright from the wide open windows, which completely contrasts the dark wood and old school, 1960s-esk tavern decor.
The extremely attentive and knowledgeable waiter flashes a bright smile, while explaining that everything on the menu is fair game for restaurant week. There’s something comforting in seeing the actual prices next to each dish and realizing you are really getting a serious bang for your buck with the $25, three-course meal. Even if the portions are smaller, it hardly matters since three dishes is a lot of food for lunchtime.
The menu also has a few drink specials to pair with the seasonal menu. I decided to treat myself to the specialty cocktail, the Higo Smash, which the waiter described as so extremely fresh that you’ll forget it’s made with Bourbon. I was sold.
For such a strong drink, the flavor is remarkably light and fresh. The combination of Bourbon and Figenza, which is Fig flavored Vodka, creates a slightly sweet liquor taste. The addition of acidic lime juice and muddled pieces of basil rounds out the cocktail. After a few sips, I realized I needed to order the food since the alcohol was already going straight to my head. This isn’t a drink for a light weight.
After pining the menu for a while, I ultimately decided to start the meal with the light Steak Tartare followed by Trout a la Plancha. Before the meal began, the waiter delivered a wooden plank of Jalapeño corn bread with whipped butter.
The moist, sweet and slightly spicy corn bread started the meal off right. It gave a nice little coating to my stomach, allowing for a few more sips of the Higo Smash. The beautiful whipped butter added another element of creaminess. Great way to start off the meal.
Shortly after, the steak tartare arrived showing off The Dutch’s immaculate presentation.
The steak tartare was lightly dressed in the mustard aioli, binding all of the herbs and pieces together. It’s a delicate flavor, allowing for the high quality steak to stand on its own. You are able to add as much flavor as you would like, especially the mustard-horseradish aioli which has a smokey-sweet creaminess. My favorite combination was adding a generous portion of aioli to the charred bread, followed by the steak tartare and finished off with the mustard greens. Other times, I would add the steak on top of the spicy paprika dusted chip, giving a lighter element of crunch. The dish was complex without being overly complicated, which is exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to Steak Tartare.
Next, it was time to move onto the main course, Trout a la Plancha with an Asian twist.
Don’t be alarmed by the murky, brown sauce sitting at the bottom of the dish. It’s one of the most delicious Asian sauces I have ever enjoyed, highlighting the pure flavor of Miso paired with big pieces of almond. The flavor combination created a thick, peanut-like sauce which was sweet, crunchy and absolutely delicious. I could have drank an entire bowl of the sauce alone. But let’s not forget about the star of the dish. The gorgeous piece of Trout was perfectly cooked with a flakey inside kept moist by the crispy skin. The green and white string beans added another element of crunch and freshness to the incredible dish, bridging together the American and Asian flavors. Perhaps the most unusual ingredient on the plate was that of fresh basil, which seemed out of place, yet worked perfectly. There’s always a reason for each element and shows off the true genius of a chef.
Finally, it was time to decide on a dessert. The waiter told me that The Dutch is known for their pies, and that the Salted Lime Pie should not be missed.
The pie itself combined salty, sweet and acidic. The light, graham cracker crust contained the beautiful custard which was generously covered in sea salt. The sorbet was creamy and refreshing, but the real breath of fresh air came from the surprising rose water gelée. It was bursting with flavor and a freshness so unusual that I wish I could pop one of these every time the New York City heat got the best of me.
After a few bites of Salted Lime Pie, I admitted defeat with the three-course meal having gotten the best of me. Every dish was phenomenal and created with so much care and consideration. It’s extremely impressive when a restaurant can cross culture lines, starting the meal in the South with Cornbread, followed by a raw steak preparation, then crossing the Pacific into Asia and finishing in the Florida Keys with a beautiful pie. The service is impeccable and the back room atmosphere is great for all types of individuals.
If you are free at lunchtime during Restaurant Week, make a reservation at The Dutch. And even if you’re not, you should still do yourself a culinary favor and make your way to The Dutch. It will cost a little bit more on a regular night, actually a lot more, but every dish will be sure to please and leave you wondering why more restaurants don’t transcend cultures with such ease.
The Dutch – 131 Sullivan Street – New York, NY
Location: Soho, NY
Type: New American, Asian Fusion
Perfect For: Date Night, Girls’ Night Out, Adventurous Eating, Dinner with Parents
Reservations: Recommended via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Steak Tartare, Trout a la Plancha