Don’t let the velvet rope throw you. If, like me, you usually skip dining rooms that double as nightclubs, Haven might be the exception. The new restaurant, er, gastro-lounge, on the less-trodden, western stretch of Lincoln Road is fantastic. A friendly, upbeat hostess, utterly lacking in attitude, greets you. The décor, though, has attitude to spare. In the dark entry, a gentle flow of water glides over a wall of black river stones. The place looks empty, but it is early. By midnight it is packed with locals sipping smoky cocktails beneath the surprisingly flattering glow of orange light. Top dishes include exquisitely handled seafare. It’s no surprise, since executive chef Todd Erickson’s last gig was as sous chef at the stellar London import, Zuma.
Those more into the culinary experience than the cool should grab a seat at one of the four kitchen stools where you can watch the team create gorgeous plates. Truthfully, hunching over to eat at knee-high coffee tables can be awkward, especially for dishes that require fork and knife. But, thankfully, there are excellent acoustics. A team of DJs and VJs armed with laptops along the back wall spins everything from The Beatles to trance at decibels that allow conversation.
Ambience: The long narrow box of a room is swathed in cushy black leather banquettes above which a wrap-around LCD screen projects morphing landscapes from tropical, neon nights and dandelion-swept prairies to snowy mountaintops. An onyx bar glows like an iceberg at dawn, while the ceiling is made up of hundreds of neon ice cubes that enhance the chilling effect. “We have blankets,” says the coquettish waitress, who sits at one of our low black stools.
- Brilliantly simply hamachi sashimi topped with a tiny coin of jalapeño
- A kooky “crackle pop” – a slightly griddled, rice-on-the-outside truly spicy spicy tuna roll stuffed with crunchy pickled daikon and bits of snappy Rice Krispies
- Rock shrimp coated in coconut panko and fried to delicate and crunchy perfection
- Thrilling, clean and bright ceviches
- Generously composed sliders – meaty crabcakes topped with delicious sour-pickled okra slivers and a horseradish rémoulade
- A duck burger born to be swathed in a griddled brioche bun and served with a riot of shallot parsley salad dotted with whole pink peppercorns and a subtle layer of Hudson Valley foie gras butter topped with a tiny umami-full fried quail egg
- Beautifully updated retro Swedish meatballs – soft, slightly sweet and skewered between gently roasted whole crimini mushrooms and served over cucumber salad and a splash of tart lingonberry gastrique
- A “tasty enough” vegetarian restaurant with chunky chickpeas, black beans and barley base and a hoochie-coochie tomato chili marmalade
- Smoking desserts
- Creative cocktails made with top-end ingredients, including the eleVate – vodka and green chili peppers over lychee and pear sorbet topped with prosecco
What Didn’t Work
- A blah rainbow of seaweeds – a pretty array of gelatinous, watery crunch
- Nitro cannoli ice cream with a grainy ricotta cheese feel served frozen too solid to enjoy.