John Brandi 9 p.m., Sept. 17
Donovan’s Wades 20,000 Leagues Beyond Beefy Comfort Zone
Situated in the Gaslamp, in the space that housed the failed Donovan’s Circle of Fifths (and before that, the failed Australian resto, Bondai), Donovan’s Prime Seafood opened quietly earlier this year. However, since landing a chef from the kitchen at the Grand Del Mar’s five-star fine dinery, Addison, they’ve become significantly more vocal, touting his pedigree and seasonally-driven cuisine. The rep of the Donovan’s family of restaurants is built almost exclusively on their treatment of mammals. So, I was intrigued to check out the sea fare being pumped out at DPS, and had the chance to do so last night.
Executive chef Kemar Durfield’s dishes exhibit the multitude of components, thoughtful composition and pretty plating one would expect from an Addison expat. A hamachi tartare appetizer is presented as a colorful cylinder that’s as tasty as it is attractive. Layers of diced fresh fish are topped with buttery avocado and whole lime segments that explode with contrasting, palate cleansing citrus zing. Chili oil goes unnoticed at first, but offers a clean, creeping heat on the back end that’s delightful.
The most delicious and all-around successful dish I sampled was a medley of perfectly cooked prawns, mussels and clams hanging out in a shallow pool of vibrant, peppery gazpacho broth that, in tandem with a celery leaf garnish, evoked memories of mornings spent sipping Bloody Marys. Billed as a “seafood cocktail,” it’s an inspired gourmet take on zesty coctels from Mexico, a place Durfield recently visited and drew inspiration and an ingredient for this dish from—tiny slivers of young coconut bring all the flavor of the fruit with much less sugar and adds an interesting textural element.
It’s still early and clearly Durfield’s still settling in and fine tuning things, but there’s solid seafood cookery happening at DPS and, no matter how fancy and innovative the accoutrements, that is—and has to be—the most important factor at any seafood restaurant. DPS is located at 333 Fifth Avenue.
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