Sho Shaun Hergatt in New York City

My weekend getaway to New York City was a bit of a spontaneous splurge since I flew into the city just to see the opera.  With “go big or go home”as my mantra, I thought I might as well throw in an extravagant dinner while I was at it.  My credentials for picking a restaurant was that it be Michelin-rated and have a tasting menu, preferably something molecular gastronomy.

The reception area of Sho. Photo via Brown Chair Interior Design.

I found Sho Shaun Hergatt and was instantly intrigued.  A two-starred Michelin restaurant (upgraded this year from one star) that describes itself as Asian-infused French molecular gastronomy, located in–of all places–the Financial District.  I couldn’t find many reviews online, yet that only added to the mystery.

The restaurant is like a pearl in the middle of an oyster: located in the second story of a condominium building, walking into Sho was like being taken into another world.  You walk through a hallway of clear wine racks lit by a row of candles to a dimly-lit restaurant with red walls.  The chefs work behind a glass wall, giving the diners a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world not normally exposed.  I expected a stuffy atmosphere, but somehow felt very relaxed.  I was even fortunate enough to meet executive chef Shaun Hergatt himself, who stopped at my table several times to chat and sent out a few unexpected courses.  He was incredibly friendly and I wished I could have picked his brain all night!

The menu is available in two options: four courses for $85 or five for $100.  There are three options for each course, creating a build-your-own tasting menu.  There isn’t a wine pairing option, but Sho’s wine list contains nearly 550 bottles, plus cocktails and beers.

Pre Course :: Amuse-bouche

Three amuse-bouche arrived minutes after I sat down.  The first was a red, gooey blob on a red sheet (even though it’s difficult to tell in the above photo) that was intensely sweet like a Jolly Rancher and contrasted with the subtly herb-tasting crunch of the greens.  The second was a shot of what I assumed to be foie gras and herbs; intensely rich and savory, as foie gras tends to be, with hints of lemon.  Delicious!  And the third was black truffles on crunchy grains that were a little too hard for my taste.  The variety of the dishes definitely piqued my interest and couldn’t wait to see what else was in store.

Course #1 :: Appetizer, Chilled Green Asparagus

Asparagus ice cream, sable breton, mixed vegetables and egg.

The first course was a vegetable plate with a mixture of different textures.  Asparagus ice cream, the green blob at the bottom, tasted just like salty asparagus but in cold, melting form.  Fava beans, mushrooms, sliced asparagus and other vegetables added different degrees of crunch to the mix, complemented by quail eggs.  A wonderful play on intensities of flavor and texture.

Course #2 :: Appetizer, Hudson Valley Foie Gras

Sundried apricot dust, herbs of the season, foie gras sphere.

The second appetizer, compliments of the chef, was a sphere of foie gras with a texture unlike any I’d ever had before.  It reminded me of the smoothness of a chocolate truffle that melted in a savory blanket of rich saltiness in my mouth.  The sweetness of the powdered apricot (the first I have ever had!) balanced out the richness of the foie gras, keeping my taste buds in the present moment.  The leaves were practically tasteless but added the tiniest crunch on the teeth.  Absolutely amazing.

Side Course :: Bread with House-made Butters

A loaf of bread arrived with three butters: truffle, regular, and basil.  All were subtle and delicious.

Course #3 :: Vermont Creamery Goats Cheese Agnolotti

Cipolini onion soubise, pickled ramps, agnolotti pasta, lamb juice.

Having never heard of agnolotti before, I chose the ravioli-like dish for this course.  Tiny pasta packets filled with goats cheese and lamb juice, which added umami with a gravy-like lamb flavor without any texture, a cipolini onion soubise (a slow-cooked onion sauce), and pickled ramps (wild onions) that were crunch and slightly sweet.  I loved how the ramp flavor and onions created the feeling of comfort food for me.  It was a perfect mid-dinner course without being bombardingly heavy.

Course #4 :: Fish Course, Crispy Skin Branzino

Spring potato puree, champagne and lemon sabayon, branzino.

For the fish course I picked another dish I hadn’t heard of before: branzino, a European sea bass.  Similar to halibut in its lightness and minimal fishiness, it came on a potato puree pillow topped with potato slices similar to chips.  I wasn’t sure what the orange cylinders were, but I assume they were the champagne and lemon sabayon.  Simple, but enjoyable.     

Course #5 :: Main Dish, Black Garlic Crusted Lamb

Fresh chickpeas, lamb sweetbreads, lamb loin, lamb tongue and cucumber puree.

The main course was a beautiful display of lamb in several forms–black garlic-crusted lamb loin, lamb tongue and lamb sweetbreads–with snap peas, herbs, cucumber puree and lamb reduction.  The lamb loin was cooked perfectly rare, but the char-like taste of the black garlic was a bit over-powering for my taste and distracted from the lamb flavor.  The lamb tongue was somehow just what I’d expect it to be, even though I’d never considered eating tongue before.  The peas were sugary and crisp, balanced with the bitterness of the sweetbreads (lamb throat or gullet), which is a food I’m still getting used to.  (My only other experience was at the Mist Project.)

Course #6 :: Dessert, Chilled Rhubarb Consomme

Green pea ice cream, Greek yogurt, chilled rhubarb consomme and crystallized mint.

Another surprise course from the chef, next was the first dessert course: petits pois (green pea) ice cream, freeze-dried Greek yogurt and crystallized mint discs topped table-side with a chilled rhubarb consommé (a clear soup).  Incredibly refreshing, the green pea flavor was subtle while the mint was a sugary burst of sweetness.  A perfect way to end such rich courses.

Course #7 :: Dessert, Soft Chocolate Ganache

Soft chocolate ganache, basil ice cream, basil seeds and salted caramel.

Next was intense chocolate ganache (yes, the filling usually found in cakes) topped with a gold leaf, surrounded by basil seeds and accompanied with basil ice cream.  I really enjoyed the non-sweet ice creams throughout the meal and the way they were presented as both a vegetable (like the asparagus above) and a dessert.  The taste of the basil was more present in the nose than mouth, but balanced the ganache wonderfully.  There comes a moment in every tasting menu where one bite is so good that it makes me laugh.  This was that bite.

Post Course :: Honeycomb, Chocolate Salami and Chocolate Rocks  

Chocolate salami, chocolate rocks, and chocolate-covered honey comb.

To end the night, a trio of little bites arrived: “chocolate salami” made of chocolate, marsh mellow and pistachio (bottom); “chocolate rocks” (middle), and chocolate-covered honeycomb.  The “rocks” looked so real I actually squished one with my fingers before eating it because I was afraid it’d crack my teeth–only to find out they were soft, ganache-like chocolates!

Close-up detail of the chocolate rocks.

My entire experience at Sho was simply amazing.  The food was outstanding and the service was beyond impressive.  I was blown away by how much food there was–even without the extra courses.  Everyone at Sho made me, a solo diner during a three-hour meal, feel comfortable and relaxed.  The night was everything I’d hoped and really added to my trip.  Thank you again to Chef Shaun for his generosity throughout the night; I can’t wait to come back!

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