53 is a new restaurant is interestingly by the Altamarea Group. Yes, we’re talking about the group who owns and operates the excellent fine dining Italian restaurants like Marea and Ai Fiori in Manhattan. While I’m not opposed to anyone pivoting, I had not thought of a global restaurant group who has a large stake in Italian cuisine would delve into upscale Chinese food. So, I left my prejudices at the door and just go and see how it goes.
This is a gorgeous space that has two levels – the main/ground floor where you’d enter, it’s the bar/lounge space and downstairs is the dining room that has a hallway leading to the kitchen. The dining room has this eye-catching rainbow that swoops from the ceiling from upstairs to the the dining area, evoking the Art Deco decadence since we’re three blocks north of Rockefeller Center, black and white marble table tops and touches of brass, warm blonde wood surrounds the space and there’s touches of Asian decor on the ceiling of the other dining room.
What we ate and drank:
- Coke et Blanc – clarified milk rum & coke punch, Amrut Old Port rum, Champagne, vanilla
- Singapore Spring Fling – pineapple saffron cordial, jade spring tea, ginger, lime, pomegranate (non-alcoholic)
- Faux 53 – lemon, ginger, honey, sparkling Riesling, lemon chip (non-alcoholic)
- Oyster and Uni, yuzu ponzu jelly, trout roe
- Fluke Kombujime, shiso salt, finger lime
- Eel Club, foie gras, cherry
- Royal Shumai – lobster, golden Kaluga caviar
- Kung Pao Quail, snow pea, cashew
- Tiger Prawn curry, coriander
- Mango pudding, Oro blanco, sago, Greek yogurt ice cream
- Nama Chocolate tart, Vietnamese coffee, Madagascar vanilla ice cream
- Ice Cream – Peach lemongrass ginger and coconut kalamansi
The highlights: The drinks were both beautiful and tasty. The Coke et Blanc was dangerously good since I couldn’t taste the Champagne or clarified rum (but I did feel it as the dinner progressed) and the non-alcoholic drinks my guest had contained strong, balanced flavors that didn’t feel like anyone was missing the alcohol. All of the dishes were solid. The fluke kombujime was wonderfully balanced between savory, acidic (finger lime juice and zest) and herbaceous (shiso salt) flavors without overpowering the fish.
The eel club with seared foie gras was absolutely delicious (and must be eaten the first few minutes when it lands on your table) from the creamy liver melded with the rich, sweet-savory unagi.
The Royal Shumai was a creative take on the classic replacing pork and shrimp filling with lobster and topping it with the buttery, clean caviar. The shumai’s wrapper had a good, slightly chewy texture and these are juicy dumplings.
The tiger prawn curry was very good. The prawn’s flavors were potent especially there’s a hint of fermented shrimp paste (I like that addition) and the prawns were cooked perfectly so it’s crunchy in texture and the prawn heads’ fat were a joy to suck on. The bowl of white rice served along with it was a necessity.
The mango pudding was the best of the desserts we had. The pudding was super smooth and creamy and the mango flavor tasted like a ripe mango times ten and the Greek yogurt ice cream was lightly tart to offset the sweetness.
Our waiter was great (professional yet personable, in tuned with what each guest/table is feeling, and well versed on the menu). I would definitely come back and try other dishes in the near future especially when I’m checking out the MoMA Museum next door.
53 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
Tel. (646) 535-3994