You may describe my relationship with shrimp cocktail as delusional. If it’s on a menu, I order it. It’s virtually at all times unexceptional, and but I’m compelled by its raw-bar glamour, and by the slimmest likelihood of greatness. One evening in the summertime of 2021, this high-stakes calculation paid off like by no means earlier than. I ordered shrimp cocktail at, of all locations, a breakfast-taco window, known as Mockingbird, briefly dwelling to a pop-up oyster bar. It was the perfect iteration I’d ever had—the sweetness of the plump, chilled meat drawn out with salt (why is shrimp cocktail so usually undersalted?) and lemon zest (a revelation), served with shaved horseradish and a fruity however balanced cocktail sauce.
I’m delighted to report that the shrimp cocktail of my goals has signed a lease. Last month, in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, André Hueston Mack and Phoebe Damrosch, a married couple who met working at Per Se (he was a sommelier, she a server), opened Kingfisher. It’s the newest addition to their rising neighborhood empire, which, together with Mockingbird, additionally contains & Sons Ham Bar and Buttery, a restaurant and store specializing in home cured meats and cheeses; a wine retailer known as VyneYard (Mack has his personal label); and a bakery known as Chickadee Bread.
If there’s a via line to those numerous companies, it’s Mack’s obsession with extremely specialised kitchen equipment. His curiosity in cured meats arose partly from his first large buy: a meat slicer manufactured in 1910. A Texas native, he bought severe about making breakfast tacos solely after he purchased a top-of-the-line industrial tortilla press. In the spring of 2020, he awoke after a night of ingesting and stated to Damrosch, “I think I bought a flour mill last night.” Indeed, he had: customized granite, made to order in Vermont, now in use at Chickadee.
Clockwise from left: fluke with pickled butternut squash, yuzu kosho, and pepitas; hiramasa, a kind of yellowtail, with Asian pear, XO sauce, and shiso; monkfish with potato purée, poached potato, herb purée, and herb salad.
& Sons Hospitality Group’s culinary director, Nico Bouter, who was the chef de delicacies at Ignacio Mattos’s Flora Bar, can greater than deal with all of it. At the Buttery, he devised a menu of easy however impressed sandwiches. (A standout options soft-boiled heirloom egg, anchovies, and pesto on sourdough.) Born within the Netherlands, he took to tacos with ease, overseeing the day by day urgent of Mockingbird’s superlative flour tortillas, which get full of house-made chorizo and scrambled heirloom eggs, or Rancho Gordo black beans and Grafton Cheddar.
Kingfisher may very well be loosely categorized as a seafood restaurant, however “our concept was ‘Let’s just cook,’ ” Mack instructed me just lately. It was time to let Bouter flex his chops: “I mean, this guy—I’m asking him to make sandwiches!” In a kitchen that’s solely barely higher outfitted than the hot-plate setups at & Sons and Mockingbird, Bouter shows a nimble effectivity. The eggs that he makes use of at the Buttery and at Mockingbird—from Ameraucana chickens, a breed that produces stunning blue shells and vibrant orange yolks—are right here, too: in hollandaise, he tosses cash of fingerling potato, crunchy croutons constituted of stale Chickadee loaves, shiny trout roe, and tobiko, then crowns the intoxicating mixture with two medium-boiled halves, egg on egg on egg on egg. Another dish exalts the potato: crushed kettle chips are folded into an earthy fingerling purée and topped with poached Purple Majesties, on a plate that additionally incorporates an emerald-hued herb purée, a dill-prominent herb salad, and tender medallions of monkfish loin.
The shrimp cocktail was nearly as good as I remembered. Slabs of uncooked hiramasa, a kind of yellowtail, brilliantly layered with XO sauce, Asian pear, and shiso leaves, gave me an identical thrill, and I used to be emboldened to interrupt my ban on fluke crudo, a dish that’s inexplicably omnipresent, and infrequently phoned in, at upmarket eating places of late. Satiny morsels of the mellow white fish had been dressed with yuzu kosho, toasted pepitas, and uncooked cubes of pickled butternut squash, gone al dente of their brine—a sensationally vivid, zippy, and textured composition that one way or the other additionally learn as light and creamy, the acquainted turned recent. (Dishes $6-$36.) ♦