By Kim Fuller Published in EAT Magazine
Change can be nice, especially when what you like stays the same. The Splendido dining room still welcomes guests into a castle-like entrance with the accompaniment of a live pianist. With new art and no curtains, the space feels bright, lively and fresh. Its staff moves around between white cloth-covered tables as fluidly as ever, and Splendido’s new executive chef-owner, Brian Ackerman, is now holding down the still-tight ship of the beautiful open kitchen.
“The menu is simple, so there’s nothing that you wouldn’t order because you don’t know what it is,” says Ackerman. “It’s simplified, without descriptive words, which creates more waiter and guest interaction.”Ackerman is continuing to deliver magic flavor through pristine ingredients, but the frills he creates add an extra element of splendid — a surprise you won’t see until the dish is dropped in front of you. The bison tartare appetizer, lovely with an ice cold prosecco or Garden Goddess gin cocktail, is composed with capers, shallot, sherry and a quail egg. The blanket of homemade potato chips on top are an unexpected and delicious addition, and hide the silky and tender meat beneath them until you grab a quarter-sized crisp, intuitively using it to scoop up a bite.
The new menu does include two Splendido staples, the Dover sole and the Colorado lamb, but Ackerman says he is making all the dishes lighter, with a lot of fresh vegetables, dynamic textures and intricate flavors. The offerings will change often, and always with the seasons. Guests can also look forward to a new blackboard menu on the bar and patio, featuring fare like a tuna crudo with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, king crab legs with drawn butter, a specialty burger, or farm fresh tomatoes with housemade mozzarella.
You’ll read that the Long Island duck entrée comes with rhubarb, carrot, and frisée, but a server will elaborate on how it’s prepared two ways, and then will describe all the side renditions in their deserved detail.
Pastry chef Sebastien Schmitt is a sweet addition to the team, and brings experience from French-born instinct, as well as his recent immersion in the cutting edge culinary scene of Sydney, Australia. Schmitt has the passion and precision of a true artist, with desserts that you won’t believe until you see, taste, repeat. Lemon, with fennel and olive oil — just wait until you try it.
Great food is never about the decorative words on a menu, but rather the imaginative and complementary renditions of texture and flavor on a plate. No matter what is on the menu, you can trust Ackerman and his team to deliver that Splendido “wow,” and maybe a few extra surprises, too.