Sidney Street Cafe
Eating like a boss runs in the family—I got it from my daddy. For my dad's birthday, he decided he wanted not one, but two birthday dinners. The first at Sidney Street Cafe (SSC), the second at Niche. Not in the same night, mind you, but just a mere 2 days apart. I had seen SSC's chef de cuisine Justin McMillen just a few weeks before our dinner, when he was cooking at the Bolyard's Burger Battle. He kept talking about all these new dishes and they just sounded so good that I used my powers of persuasion to convince my dad that is where he wanted to eat.
Then again, it's not too hard to sell a hot dog gnocchi dish to a man who loves meat. Yes, that's correct: SSC has a hot dog and pretzel gnocchi dish. It's the second time this year I've had a hot dog inspired dish at a fine dining establishment and that is totally cool with me. This version was made up of a sliced house-made hot dog, spicy ketchup, pretzel gnocchi, pickled mustard seed, pickle-tomato relish, and a beer mustard veloute. If someone has had a finer hot dog dish than this, bring it forward! I'm doubtful one exists.
In need of a meatless option for the ladies, we went with the octopus confit—a thick tendril of tender octopus over salsa verde and pozole, Eiffel Towered by Swiss chard chips. I didn't get much of the octopus itself, but I ate most of the pozole. I love the puffed up, juicy bites of hominy.
Our last meal at SSC was in late summer, just after the Spatchcock Quail was added. It's about to leave the menu to make room for another fowl dish, but my thoughts remain the same: the tiny, adorable bird is grilled and served over harissa tossed papas bravas (fried potatoes), charred carrots, and chimichurri. It’s a perfect dish for summer with its smoke and char flavors.
The two newer dishes we got were even better. Even more outstanding.
First, we have the wood grilled snapper—a dish that looks pretty simple, but it's anything but that. The fish was perfectly cooked, the flesh white and tender with hints of smoke and a nutty sweetness some a brown butter vinaigrette. To enhance the smoke, the fish rested over a house made nduja puree, a spicy, smoky spreadable sausage.
The accompaniments were just as bold and delicious: squid ink gnocchi, bok choi, finger limes, and manila clams. Justin told me to get the pork belly special, so that's what I did...even though I'm not a huge fan of pork belly. However, he's bigger than me, so I relented. And boy, I'm glad that I did.
The pork belly was the crispiest I've ever had. Anywhere. I had a video on my phone of me tapping on it so I could send it to friends and family to make them jealous. The slightly blurry picture below does a decent job showing that top layer, I think. Eating a chunk of the pork belly, simultaneously as crispy as can be and as tender as meat gets, with the pickled pepper salad, chicharrones, smoked pig heart, and Cajun grillade sauce, was one of those moments where the world goes dark around you and you just think about how good what you're eating is. As usual, the Bob "The Zuggernaut" Zugmaier's desserts matched the entrees in both looks and flavor. His take on sweet potato pie ('tis the season, after all), a collaboration with his pastry assistant, Kelsey, was composed of: candied yam puree, sweet potato pastry cream, orange cardamom semi freddo, spiced pecans, and a winter spice tuile. Just like the sweet potato pie you make at home.
The apple dish was the family's favorite, though. The combination of caramel glazed Granny Smith apples, cinnamon coffee cafe, a caramel apple puree, creme fraiche ice cream, and the espresso gelee is a tough one to top. I would have gladly just had the coffee cake and gelee, though. They were so good.
And so ends another successful trip to Sidney Street.