The Newly Opened Cultivar In The Ames Hotel Aims To Please

Posted June 14, 2017 by Cheryl Fenton in Dining Downtown: Restaurant Reviews
The Mother Earth goes to the peak-of-spring with Yakitori Morels & Fiddleheads, ironically placed on Earthenware pottery.

When you have April, May and June showers, there had better be flowers. Now that the sun has popped and all that rain is behind us, we can get out and smell the roses. And if you’re in the Financial District, you can actually eat the flowers at Cultivar. Award-winning Executive Chef Mary Dumont (of Harvest fame) recently opened her much-anticipated restaurant, and her über-seasonable cuisine is not only enticing by taste but also by sight. Gimme all the pretty edible flowers.

A horticultural term for picking a breeding plant’s best attributes, Cultivar is so farm-to-fork that the farm is actually next to your fork (a hydroponic container garden is on the patio outside the Ames Hotel). Alongside home-grown greens, veggies, and herbs, the menu boasts sustainable seafood (oysters and crudo) and dry-aged meats.

Razor Clam

Razor Clam – white soy, chile, and crunchy paper-thin garlic.

Dumont’s cozy 88-seat dining room was co-designed by wife Emily French-Dumont, bringing the outside in with branch-like chandeliers, moss wall art, and potted astilbes (a flowering shade perennial typically reserved for outdoor use). There are even glass pillars covered in etched leaves in the room’s center.

Because Dan Lynch’s (Liquid Art House) cocktail program generated so much buzz, we were eager to begin. We sipped flower-laden Plum Island Swizzles (gin, beach plum, apricot, cinnamon, lime, and bitters) and also discovered a new favorite – the refreshing tartness from Evil Twin’s Sanguinem Aurantiaco Sour Ale.

Cultivar bread is served with butter and fennel pollen.

Cultivar bread is served with butter and fennel pollen.

When bread is served with butter and fennel pollen, the chef obviously thinks outside the [bread] box. This wouldn’t be any ordinary meal, as evidenced by our first appetizer. Served on crushed ice, the Razor Clam was solo but the flavors were plenty – white soy, chile, and crunchy paper-thin garlic. The Mother Earth goes to the peak-of-spring with Yakitori Morels & Fiddleheads, ironically placed on Earthenware pottery. Well-played. Woodsy morels and snap-fresh fiddleheads took turns on the skewers set on delicious fava bean hummus. Sesame seeds, edible flowers, furikake and lemon thyme finished off the dish.

The Burgundian Snail Toast starter also captivated us from the get-go – a beautiful display of deep pinks and light greens dancing on a slice of buttery grilled bread. The country ham added a welcomed dash of salty to the chickpeas’ subtleness and sweetness of plump snails.

Black Bass

The Black Bass entrée was served with herb gnocchi, fiddleheads, and favas.

The Black Bass entrée was served with herb gnocchi, fiddleheads, and favas. Halfway through this dish I realized I was humming – an honest reaction to the velvety, tangy chamomille beurre blanc mellowed out by two perfectly cooked filets. There are those edible flowers again.

House-made pastas are available in tiny tastings or full entrees. The Nettle Bucatini with lamb neck sugo lost out to Squid Ink Messinesi with sea beans, confit tomato, and seafood. The sea beans offered up a slight salty crispness that mixed well with tender (and ample) lobster claw and giant mahogany clams.

Although sides like bone marrow roasted potatoes or veggies were calling, we instead left room for dessert.

The deconstructed Cherry Wood Smoked Brownie with gianduja creme.

The deconstructed Cherry Wood Smoked Brownie with gianduja cremeux.

Pastry chef Robert Gonzalez is responsible for all the gasp-inducing madness. I went for the house-made Lychee & Hibiscus Sorbet with a sheet of raspberry leather and crumbs of cardamom soil. It was dainty and beautiful (I pictured woodland fairies assembling it), but I managed to indulge in what was one of the best desserts I have ever had. The deconstructed Cherry Wood Smoked Brownie with gianduja cremeux (Nutella has nothing on this treat) and graham cracker ice cream also didn’t last long.

This experience was for the palette and the eyes. Consider us cultivated.