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Aug 23, 2011 11:06 AM

SHO Shaun Hergatt review - a mixed bag!

DH and I decided to celebrate our one-year anniversary at SHO Shaun Hergatt last night. I had read great reviews here and knew the restaurant had a Michelin star, so I figured we’d be in for a treat. We made our reservation through, and I was eager to find out how that process worked as well.

First impressions: we were the first or second couple in the place when we arrived at 6:55 for our 7pm reservation. There seemed to be a TON of waitstaff hanging around, not knowing what to do with themselves. DH and I both liked the Asian-inspired décor, but I found certain aspects to be a little too dark, particularly the bathrooms. The room started filling up a bit around 7:30pm but when we left at 9pm, it was still only half full, if that. I guess that's what you get on a Monday night in the Financial District.

Service: I was pretty surprised at how awkward the service was for a restaurant of this caliber. It was quite clear to me that this was a “training” night, as they had people shadowing the various waitstaff who served us. The waiter who took our order was relatively competent and very friendly, but his timing was off - we were interrupted several times in the middle of a conversation or in mid-chew. This happened with the bread person as well. The waiter (or runner?) who actually served us our food was clearly nervous and his English was a bit lacking, so it was very hard to understand exactly what we were being served. There was no sommelier available, which was really unacceptable given that the waiters had no clue about most of the wines on the list (which is heavily French and somewhat expensive - for instance, there wasn’t a single Riesling to be had for less than $125). I had a question that our waiter couldn’t answer, and when I asked if there was anyone on duty that night who might be able to help he said no, that only the sommelier would know (it was a relatively simple question too - I wanted to know what a GSM from Australia was. Turns out it’s a Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvedre blend. I should have just whipped out my phone and Googled it then and there!). We had to refill our own wine glasses, and were left waiting for the check for about 15 minutes after we had finished our mignardises. I wasn’t looking for a Daniel-type experience here, but I definitely expected more from SHO.

Food: We decided to go with the regular 3-course menu as the tasting menu didn’t interest us. It featured tomatoes, which we both enjoy, but seven courses of tomatoes just seemed like a bit of overkill. The regular menu is somewhat limited IMO, with only 6 choices in each category. I also thought it a bit odd that there was neither a chicken nor a beef option in the main courses. DH is not a huge seafood eater, so he went with the fingerling espuma for his starter and the veal tenderloin main. I chose the foie gras torchon and prawns.

We received several lovely amuses that actually turned out to be highlights of the meal. First were a pea puree with coconut foam and a dish of “truffles,” little balls of foie gras and potato coated in brown breadcrumbs and fried. Both very delicious. The coconut foam was savory and complimented the sweetness of the pea puree nicely. The foie truffles were molten and luxurious in the center, just really magnificent little bites. A few minutes later we received a tiny shrimp atop a pickled cucumber slice with a little caviar - also tasty, with a hint of ginger. The bread was quite good (especially the rosemary olive) and the black truffle butter was a nice touch (although I found the truffle flavor to be quite subtle).

DH thought his starter was a real winner, although I was less enthused. If you like cold potatoes and poached eggs, you’d probably love it (I don’t like either). It was a very pretty presentation and the quail eggs were perfectly cooked. My torchon was less successful. It came on two plates - one with a cylinder of foie gras on top of an apricot fruit leather, coated in apricot powder. The other plate held a folded napkin with a slender rectangle of “French toast” on top, which was actually more like untoasted brioche coated in nuts (maybe blanched almonds?), topped with an apricot compote. The presentation was weird (why on earth would I want to eat off a napkin?) and the dish as a whole didn’t work at all. The actual foie gras and apricot dust were good (nothing special, but good), but the fruit leather was completely stuck to the plate - to the point where I wasn’t sure I was supposed to try to eat it because I could barely scrape it off, even using the point of my knife. It tasted like a fruit roll-up and was completely unnecessary. The side of French toast was neither really savory nor really sweet, and I couldn’t figure out what it had to do with my foie. Also, the menu description said there would be chocolate involved, and the chocolate was nothing more than a couple of miniscule dots on the plate - I thought they might be part of the porcelain.

As for the mains, DH got lucky again. The veal tenderloin was scrumptious - tender, nicely seasoned and beautifully presented with a dab of lentil puree and some sprouted lentils and heavenly garlic scapes. The lambsquarters looked quite nice as well but didn’t do anything for me, flavor-wise. My dish, however, was something of a disaster. There were four beautiful, large prawns that unfortunately were a bit overcooked, topped with ginger foam. Or so they said. I could not discern one iota of ginger flavor in the foam - it just tasted like vaguely salty air. DH (who detests ginger) tasted it as well and confirmed - no ginger. Anyway, there was also a random smear of avocado on the plate (which wound up being a blessing, as I used it to “sauce” my shrimp since the foam was so lackluster), three or four severely undercooked baby eggplants (and I like my vegetables crisp, but these were just NOT cooked), a couple of undercooked and terribly pungent radishes, and three plugs of undercooked purple potato. The peekytoe crab was two dime sized piles of shredded crabmeat tucked artistically into the forest of undercooked potato and eggplant. The plate was beautiful, but none of the elements were cooked properly nor did any of them seem to relate to each other in any way. This was the first time I have ever considered sending a dish back in a restaurant of this caliber, and honestly if our waiter had been more available or more interested in our experience, I probably would have sent it back.

Finally, dessert. I was the winner this time with the chocolate cremeux, which was a gorgeous plate with a bar of soft chocolate cookie topped with mousse alongside a ball of milky ice cream. There was a white chocolate tuile decoration that was hideously sweet, but pretty. The chocolate mousse was nice and silky and the perfect balance between bitter and sweet. A very nice dessert, although not a particularly creative or interesting one. DH ordered the corn ice cream with cheddar and caramel, which seemed to have come from a different restaurant. Up to this point, every item we were served at SHO was a work of art, even if the flavors were lacking. This was a white plate with a smear of beigey caramel (which tasted like peanut butter) holding an off-white cracker-like thing, which held a scoop of off-white ice cream topped with an off-white cheddar powder. No color, no design, nothing interesting in any way. Flavor-wise, this was a loser as well - the ice cream tasted more like leftover cereal milk than actual corn, and the cracker might as well have been sawdust. I liked the accent of the sharp cheese, but that is about the only positive thing I can say about it.

Mignardises were delivered promptly and were mostly quite good. There was a little sesame macaron with mango and chocolate that didn’t do it for me, but the shortbread, chocolate-passionfruit, chocolate-peanut butter, white chocolate-pistachio and burnt salty caramel were all tasty, although DH thought the burnt caramel was too burnt.

As I mentioned earlier, we had made our reservation through, and that went off without a hitch - 30% subtracted from our bill without having to say a word. With the 30% off I felt that the meal was reasonably priced, but I would have been VERY irritated if I had paid full price. Portions were about what I expect from this type of restaurant, perhaps a bit on the smaller side - I was full enough but DH wanted a snack by the time we got home (this is not unusual for him!). The service issues and hit or miss food were the real problem. I wanted to like SHO, but at this price point I feel there are MANY better options in NYC, in more convenient locations and with more interesting menus. I don’t think we’ll be back anytime soon.

SHO Shaun Hergatt
40 Broad St, New York, NY 10004

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  1. Good thing you chose the $75 3-course prix fixe rather than the tasting, because I thought the Savored discount didn't apply to specials and tasting menus. It's a shame the food and service were so uneven for you. I had enjoyed my food the two times I dined there.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Cheeryvisage

      Oh, I didn't realize it didn't apply to tasting menus - I just thought you couldn't use it with specials or other coupons. Good to know!

      1. re: biondanonima

        I don't think it applied to tasting menus, just to special menus like the $35 prix-fixe, known as the Closing Bell special.

        1. re: rrems

          Really? I still see it listed:

          You're right though. It says:

          Not valid with A la Carte, Restaurant Week or Closing Bell menus.

          1. re: Cheeryvisage

            When I typed SHO and SHO Shaun Hergatt into the search box on Savored, it did not come up. I tried another way and did find it. Edited my earlier post to remove that sentence. Glad to see they are still on Savored.

    2. Yikes! Sorry about that service. I guess they have to train new staff SOMETIME, but you certainly don't want it to be in the middle of YOUR dinner.

      Nice to know your discount worked out so easily, though. I always fret about that sort of thing and don't want to have to look like a cheapskate by bringing it up.

      3 Replies
      1. re: plumpdumpling

        Exactly - I was concerned about that as well, but it went off without a hitch. I would definitely recommend the deal to anyone interested in dining at SHO. As for the rest of the service, I would have complained had it not been obvious that they were trying to please - everyone was friendly and helpful when asked, just a bit clueless. The main thing for me was the lack of a sommelier. With a wine list as extensive as theirs, you need one, even if it is just a Monday night.

        1. re: biondanonima

          Thanks for clueing me in to the thing, of course I signed up immediately.
          Very odd about the sommelier, since there's been one each time we've been there, which includes 2 lunches on Mondays.

          1. re: buttertart

            Yeah, I thought so too. I even pressed the waiter to see if there was an assistant or ANYONE else on staff that might know more about the wines than he did, and he said no. He seemed to be pushing the wines by the glass, actually, but I don't know if that was because he was more familiar with them or what.

      2. We were there Wednesday the 15th of this month.

        We didn't stay passed the amuses.

        We arrived at 8pm to a near empty restaurant, which given the size of the darn place I immediately found off-putting. There is a rather large lounge (40 seats) at the front of the restaurant and not a person was there. No one was at the bar. Not even a bartender. The place was empty and dead silent. Led through a nice looking wine alley we came upon the actual restaurant that was running at about 25% capacity. We were then actually given a fabulous seat right in front of the glass walled kitchen, but unfortunately that was the highlight of our brief stay.

        A wine list was waiting for us on the table and three of quickly picked out three cocktails that we thought we would we drink as we perused the food menu before we would order wine. Our waitress, a pleasant enough person came over, gave us our menus, and we gave her our cocktails. About ten minutes later the first amuses arrived. It was the same dish as in the OP but ours was gag-inducing. The coconut mousse was tasteless except for sweetener and the pea puree was one of the single worst things I've put in my mouth in recent memory. Extraordinarily salty and with the consistency of baby food. The coconut and salty pea flavor combination tasted exactly as it sounds, like slightly sweet coconut and salty pea mush. Yuck!

        Now about a little more than 15 minutes had passed and no sight of our drinks. And this was VERY disappointing because all we wanted to do was get the disgusting taste of the first amuse out of our mouths.

        Then the other amuse came out for us. Unfortunately it was brought out to us by someone who was incapable of describing the dish to us. All we understood were foie gras balls, which sounded decent enough, but it was covered in some curious black coating that we were interested in the identity of, and it had taken the serve three sentences to describe the dish - so we knew that these were much more than just foie gras balls. Given this is Michelin starred restaurant and the price, this didn't seem an unreasonable level of service to expect. Which is not even to get to the taste of this foie gras balls. I love foie gras. I adore it. I order it everywhere. So I was pretty pumped for some foie love nuggets. Instead when I popped one in my mouth all I got was gloppy chicken liver flavor and super crunchy stale pieces of the unidentified black substance that added absolutely nothing to the dish, but did mange to scrap the roof of my mouth.

        At this point we were closing in on 25 minutes since our drink order and nothing had arrived. Our amuses have been disgusting, and one of us raises the point that perhaps we should just leave. We considered it - we hadn't ordered our food yet, and our drinks had not arrived.

        I beckon the waitress over and asked her the status of our drinks. She assured me they were on their way, and I told her that we were thinking of leaving. She gives me this stunned deer in headlights look and jets off to find a higher up. Another five minutes go by (notice we still haven't even been asked to order food yet) and we decide we are out of there. One of us starts to get up and the maitre'd (or something) comes over and offers us some "very funky" alcoholic apple cider as a "counter-offer," and says the cocktails will be on the house. At that moment then, over her back shoulder, nearly 35 minutes after we ordered them, our drinks arrived. The three of us knowingly smile at each, jokingly wonder if she is going to withdraw the apple cider offer now that our drinks were there (what was she going to do, serve us each two drinks at the same time?), and say we think we're going to leave anyway. On the way out another gentlemen higher-up approaches me and asks if he could contact me the next day to follow up. I told him he could, but the next came and went and never phone call came.

        Definitely will not be giving them another shot.

        Despite being rather dressed up, to actually, you know, eat, we managed our way to Zabb Elee for some Thai food we thought would hit the spot after the disaster. It did.

        Zabb Elee
        75 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003

        1 Reply
        1. re: tongue_to_tail

          Wow, sounds like the service was even rougher the night you were there than it was during our visit. That is a real bummer - at least you didn't end up wasting a bunch of money on dinner, though. I wonder if they've reworked the amuses since you were there though, because honestly those were two of the better things we had that night.