By Terry Trucco
Remember the scene in Ratatouille where a forkful of vegetable stew sends the grumpy restaurant critic into Proustrian raptures and transports him back to his carefree childhood?
Okay, the kedgeree at the Ace Hotel’s The John Dory Oyster Bar wasn’t quite like that. No childhood memories bubbled up (we weren’t big kedgeree eaters in Northern California). But I ate a lot of the stuff during the four years I lived in London. And I loved it.
I loved that the ingredients – eggs, boiled rice, parsley, salmon or smoked haddock, a dash of
curry – came together to create a heavenly glop whose sum outstripped its pedestrian parts. Since I like breakfast for dinner, I loved that this Victorian breakfast staple, a relic of once-fashionable 19th-century Anglo-Indian cuisine, was almost always consumed at night, usually after a play or at a party, paired with champagne. I liked living in London, and kedgeree tasted British, like something imbedded in an Evelyn Waugh or Rudyard Kipling novel or served at the pre-renovation Savoy hotel, where I ate my favorite strain (they made it with salmon).
And I’d pretty much forgotten its existence, let alone its charms, until the server at The John Dory deposited a white porcelain casserole on my round copper table and whipped off the lid. Thick with smoked haddock and sprinkled with delicate ribbons of scrambled egg, it was the real deal ($15), reimagined for 21st century tastes with less cream (thank you) by chef April Bloomfield, who with fellow Brit Ken Friedman runs two successful gastropubs, The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village and The Breslin at the Ace.
The lobster roll, tuna on toast with fried egg and Hollandaise, and raw oysters delivered to the next table looked tempting — the menu features bar food and small plates for sharing — but I can’t imagine ordering anything other than kedgeree (unless it’s the chocolate mousse).
You can wait an hour for a night-time table at the jam-packed John Dory, which doesn’t take reservations, a boon for Opening Ceremony, the hipster treasure trove of a hotel shop that the adjoins the restaurant and stocks everything from Chloe Sevigny shoes to Haribo raspberries. But show up like I did at 2:30 on a weekday afternoon, and you’ll breeze right in and choose a table.
A riff on an East London oyster bar, emphasis on the word bar, the restaurant sports black tile-covered walls, tall, round tables, an artfully worn mosaic tile floor and acres of counter seating at the bar and in front of the windows that overlook the questionable delights of Broadway and West 29th Street. And in case you forget the restaurant’s seafood-centric theme, two enormous water-filled orbs bookend the bar holding fish — the decorative kind.