213 Front Street
City: New York, NY
Site: Visit the restaurant site
2nd Cuisine: American
Area: South Street Seaport
Entree Price: $25-30
There’s a new restaurant row in town, and it’s far from the hustle-bustle of West 46th Street. In fact, even native New Yorkers may be hard pressed to identify Front Street without a map. Well, it’s a narrow block at the northern end of the South Street Seaport, and once housed the Fulton Fish Market. In the wake of that landmark’s departure, the street has been lovingly restored, which is why a variety of upscale shops and eateries have moved in. Among them is the worth-a-visit Stella Maris, which is owned by Irish natives Keith Doyle and Darren Pettigrew (who’s also the chef).
Little expense has been spared in the uber-chic decoration of the restaurant, as evidenced by the beautiful wood tables, the lush leather banquettes, and the fancy-looking black-and-white photographs on the wall. There’s an adjacent daytime café that serves breakfast (including Jacques Torres hot chocolate) and lunch during the week, but to get a true appreciation of Pettigrew’s cuisine, head to that beautiful main dining room.
Being that we were so near the water, we took our very charming waiter’s suggestion to sample selections from the raw bar. Perhaps, we went a tad overboard by choosing the $59 “small shellfish platter” – not so much because of the cost but because of the size of the platter: six shrimp, six clams, twelve oysters, and a half a chilled lobster. It could’ve been dinner! Mind you, everything seemed exceedingly fresh, and the offered option of adding horseradish and hot sauce to the cocktail and mignonette sauces made my spice-loving dining partner even happier. Pettigrew’s salads, though listed under appetizers, were also meal-sized. An intriguing and extremely tasty variation on the French duck salad found slices of far-from-gamy rabbit intermingled with bracing frisee, lentils, and caramelized shallots. Not quite as successful (at least, in my opinion) was rounds of grilled octopus tossed with flat parsley and slices of potato in a strongish vinaigrette. We took the restaurant’s name (which means star of the sea) as a sign to forego such carnivorous treats as grilled lamb chops and steak frites and focus our attention on Pettigrew’s fish dishes. Indeed, we were thoroughly entranced by one of the evening’s specials – a hearty filet of halibut wrapped in prosciutto and accompanied by two oversized lobster ravioli. My very flavorful wild salmon came truly rare as ordered, but I fear Pettigrew may have overgilded the lily by setting it atop both creamy polenta and rather mushy eggplant and crowning the dish with a surfeit of cherry tomatoes. Still, both dishes went down especially easily thanks to the excellent wines-by-the-glass we chose. (A large selection of beers is also available).
Desserts are all homemade, and you’ll likely be happy whatever you select. The kitchen’s variation on the French classic, mille crepe, offers a nicely light finale; the berry-laden fruit tart is a bit heavy on pastry, but still refreshing; and my companion was practically rapturous over a silky peanut butter mousse torte topped with deep, delicious chocolate ganache. Talk about your shining stars!
Review By: Brian Scott Lipton