The Washington Times - June 24, 2008, 04:40PM

By Jacquie Kubin, Editor and writer for Donne Tempo Magazine

Situated on Central Park South at the Jumeriah Essex House, South Gate restaurant is the culinary domain of Executive Chef Kerry Heffernan.

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The Jumeirah Essex House, N.Y., New York

The restaurant is a marvelous New York oasis located in the veritable culinary desert of this big canyon city. A frequent visitor, I stay usually somewhere between the park

and Times Square and I find the food choices remarkably slim.
 
I balk at overpriced eateries that rely on their hubris, instead of their food.  I abhor dining where I do not feel that I am welcome to linger as the crush at the bar is waiting for my spot. I want to eat where the food is well prepared, the atmosphere comfortable and the service pleasant.
 
Where the experience is equal to the plate.  

For nothing ruins a well prepared and presented meal quite as succinctly as a wait staff whose agenda is to move them in, and out.
 
South Gate stands out amongst the crowd of New York’s all too familiar. Chef Heffernan creates an inventive, seasonal menu that forgoes the expected to bring rich, flavorful dishes that surprise your taste, smell and visual senses.
 
I must admit, Chef Kerry had me at the start with an appetizer of Flan of English Peas, a richly flavored green dish with a springtime flavors accented by morels, proscuitto and the wonderful mild-earthy balance of a chervil emulsion.
 
“The idea behind the flan is that we took something quite familiar and put it into an unusual textural context.  Here the taste of the peas stays with you while the flavors of the morels and prosciutto linger throughout the experience.” Chef Kerry Heffernan
 
Returning to greenmarket foods done right was the Grilled and Roasted Spring Onion Salad with fleur de vert goat cheese and banyuls vinaigrette.  The onions in this dish, including Chef Kerry’s beloved ramps, are prepared to bring out their varying sweet flavors that couples so well with the creamy goodness of the goat cheese which is enhanced with the sweet sun kissed flavors of the Banyuls vinaigrette made with the wine and wine kissed vinegars.
 
The use of the Banyuls wine, a sweet red wine from the Pyrenees region of Southwestern France and Banyuls Vinegar with its sweet flavor with references to vanilla and cinnamon that are crisp, not cloying, creates a wonderful palate base for garden based dish enhancements.
 
“Having spent time in France, the Banyuls is a part of my lexicon.  It is almost a French version of port.  It works will with the beautiful springtime onions.  Creating this dish, I wanted to preserve the integrity of the onion varieties but highlight the difference between them.  I imported the sage oil as a natural aromatic for this springtime dish, though many see it is a fall texture, but really it is the first of the garden plants to emerge  in the spring.” Chef Kerry Heffernan
 
Chef Kerry’s respect for an international garden of flavors is evident in dishes like the Butter Roasted Lobster served alongside a tart kimchi resting in a red pepper-marjoram broth.  A dish that supports the savory lobster with the sharp-tasting kimchi.


South Gate’s Chef Kerry Heffernan
Once again, Chef Kerry has layered his flavors, creating a playful culinary back-and-forth between the bitter hued greens and the rich proteins that he marries so intuitively.

Without waxing poetic over every dish, standouts include the Mayan Shrimp and Leeks Vinaigrette flavored with cardamom, rocket and dill.  In this dish, Chef Kerry once again supports the sweetness of plump, sweet seafood with the slightly spicy, almost bitter salad green, rocket, or arugula the clean crispness of the dill and the aroma of the cardamom.

“Creating a dish, the individual products must be pristine and perfect.  In this dish, the  shrimp and leeks were wonderful on their own, how do you create a new dialogue with the food and the diner?  The flavor profile must chart through to the dill and cardamon,  each flavor and aroma standing on its own talent. “ Chef Kerry Heffernan

From the land comes the Snake River Farms Glazed Fresh Pork Belly with Chinese leeks and kohlrabi puree.  Kohlrabi, a member of the cabbage family is a wonderful surprise with the sweet Pork Belly. Together with the leek, the Kohlrabi works to offset the fatty nature of the pork belly creating another plate that is well balanced and unique. 

“Pork belly is coming to have its own knowledge in certain circles.  With this dish you have to be careful with the amount you serve and how you serve it.  There is a lot of fat and less than 60% of the entire belly can be used.  You need to balance the dish not only in the quantity, but also to pair it with foods that will not overwhelm, or be overwhelmed, but the product.” Chef Kerry Heffernan.
 
There is little doubt that Chef Kerry’s springtime menu is being followed by some exciting dishes with a summertime flair.   He tells me of a delightful duck dish, lightly smoked and seared rare.  Duck – Summertime’s Pork!
 
Another dish he is excited over is his Lamb Casseole.  Served with fresh edame and fava beans, highlighted with Chinese Leeks and roasted tomatoes, the dish promises the depth of a casseole while incorporating the light flavors and warmth of summertime.
 
South Gate has quickly become a restaurant must on the New York City’s culinary map recently enjoying the company of tourists, residents and those celebs, such as Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman, that make New York Dining just a little bit more exciting.
 
Jacquie Kubin is the editor of and a writer for Donne Tempo Magazine.  Jacquie is one of those known as a “foodie” who loves to find menus with surprises and chef’s that are all about the dishes they prepare.  Needless to say, South Gate is her favorite New York City restaurant!