Clement: Flawless Elegance
Clement impresses from the start. It’s hard to know where to begin with this elegant restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel.
Should I describe the intimate long, black stone bar room with a curved ceiling that descends to meet a long wall banquette with low leather communal couches and small duet tables, or should I focus on the bartender who creates fascinating cocktails like the Clement, the Ink and Dagger, or Sassafras Cobbler.
We started with the Clement cocktail named after the restaurant. I was told that it is a Peninsula tradition to honor their long-term managers for their loyalty and service by naming the restaurants after them.
We sat by the window overlooking Fifth Avenue, but it was the adjoining rooms that attracted my attention. As if looking into a many-dimensional painting with so many rooms, each room leads to another, each with its own character and theme for different occasions and moods.
The entire space is carefully planned, from intimate lounge to larger dining areas. It exudes elegance, like a quintessential New York home.
We chose the Book Room, where calm and cosmopolitan guests spoke in near whispers. This room, covered with textured, custom paper stacked along the corner walls, evokes the hotel libraries of bygone days. It has warm, soft finishes, with plush chairs and banquettes covered with soft leather while the subdued lighting in this airy and spacious room frees the mind of its worries.
Then there is the Mirror Room and the Color Room, the latter adorned with a golden image of 60-foot-long, hand-etched jungle growing over the buildings of New York, titled “Wild New York.”
A Chef’s Talent
Chef Brandon Kida, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America (and formerly of Lutece and Asiate), is young and unassuming. Growing up with Japanese parents, he was exposed very early on to a wonderful food culture and heritage. He said, “I started cooking out of necessity for myself and my sister when I was young because both parents worked. … Cooking comes naturally to me.”
Kida’s philosophy is simple and he cooks with an inner peace and calmness reflected in his elegant creations and love of nature.
He uses regional ingredients from the Northeast—some local, some foraged—because, as he said, “It is very important to me to have a time and place. So whenever you sit down to eat, it should make sense with the seasons and with where you are sitting. You are now in the middle of New York City, and so the food should make sense for your surrounding at the time. We follow the natural progression. In other words, it is basically mimicking what is going on in nature.”
An Elegant Dinner
The menu is elegant and easy to read, with carefully selected wines by the glass suggested for each dish.
Kida seems to cook from a very quiet place, as reflected in his creations. Each dish is like a soft, husky song whose syllables are both long and syncopated—and provocative to the diner.
I could not help but stare in awe at the Tuna dish ($26). It looked like a pond of lilies with shadows of fish swimming in the water, with soft green leaves floating above the water with what looked like snowflakes gently resting atop. It was grand with a sophisticated incorporation of wasabi, daikon, and white soy.
The Taste of Summer salad ($23) (I visited last month) was very crisp and the vegetables had that fresh snap upon the first bite, dressed in a sweet and sour hazelnut vinaigrette. I noticed almost all of Kida’s dishes are inspired by his wonderful childhood memories growing up with Asian cuisine.
The Scallop ($28) came with an amazing combination of pureed grapefruit and celery root. Scallops are very delicate and need to be cooked at the right temperature for just the right duration or they become rubbery. Here they were tender and sweet.
The grand and refined Mushroom dish ($25) is very nutritious as well. The mushrooms are sourced from Shibumi Farm as well as foraged. The dish is served by pouring green tea over cooked rice, with a savory mix of toppings including the mushrooms, green strawberries, herbs, and some trout roe.
The Sea Bass ($36) is the epitome of perfect execution. It emanates exquisite smells evoking Asia and recalling the taste of nature. Set in a pool of Peking duck sauce, the fish was tender with a crispy skin.
The tender and crispy Porcelet ($42) from Fossil Farms, N.J., (where pigs are fed chestnuts) came with cherries, white beans, and jus. It reminded me of the Wild West and summertime memories of the classic American barbecue.
Wines by the Glass—All of Them
An extensive list impressively makes all of the more than 250 wines available by the glass. If in doubt what to choose, ask wine director Jared Fischer, who has a deep appreciation and encyclopedic knowledge of wine and food pairings.
Also allow some space for pastry chef Deden Putra to demonstrate his equal talent in creating Clement’s delightful dessert menu. We had the delicious Passionfruit Cheesecake with coconut shortbread, pistachio pesto, basil mango sorbet, as well as the Eaton Mess Semifreddo, with half-frozen strawberry and cream and red fruit sauce ($15).
Tasting menus are available ($105–$185). The restaurant accommodates 80 guests in the main dining room and up to 12 guests in the private dining room.
Our experience of the service along with nature’s delight can be summed up with a smile.
Clement at The Peninsula New York
700 Fifth Ave. (at 55th Street)
Daily, 6:30 am–10:30 am
Monday–Saturday noon–2:30 p.m., Sunday 11:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Tuesday–Saturday 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. (closed for dinner Sunday & Monday)