Restaurateur Chris Cannon was once the Dr. Dre of New York Italian dining, producing smash successes with chefs Scott Conant (L’Impero, Alto) and Michael White (Convivio, Marea). Now, three years after a very public split with White, Cannon is back in the spotlight.
His much-anticipated return, All’onda, isn’t pure Italian, but a modern hybrid, tinting the food of Venice with the flavors of Japan. The mash-up comes courtesy of chef Chris Jaeckle, who earned his Italian stripes at Ai Fiori, after sharpening his Japanese skills at Morimoto. Delicate border-crossing cuisine unfolds inside a duplex, sleek in cool shades of gray and polished wood.
All’onda shows occasional bursts of brilliance. Jaeckle’s Italian cooking leans to the East with a lyrical hamachi crudo ($17) tickled by olive oil and soy, or creamy fried sweetbreads ($18) spun smoky by fluttering bonito flakes. But the nouveau fusion falters with ricotta tortellini ($17) bobbing like wontons in undersalted kombu-Parmesan broth, a discordant mingling of dairy and dashi.
Those tortellini are a rare misstep in a lineup of solid midcourse pastas, the best of which boast rich sauces levitated by acid. Lemon brightens toothsome bucatini ($19), decadently slicked in smoked-uni cream sauce; vinegar rouses snail-shaped lumache ($19), with a gamey ragù bearing five-day-aged duck and the trace bitterness of chocolate.
Compared with the stunner pastas that precede them, All’onda’s mains mostly fizzle. Two fillets of skate ($25) cemented together with meat glue and lacquered with veal glaze masquerade as meat, but there’s no disguising their irredeemably chewy flesh. Guinea hen ($28) smeared with kombu butter shows off a leg as tender as duck confit; a shame its scrawny breast is desert dry.
Kitchen stumbles like tough proteins are surprisingly glaring errors for a chef who’s cooking in his comfort zone. Where Cannon’s projects have usually gone full speed out of the gate, All’onda is still struggling to hit full stride; looks like the path back to restaurant stardom is proving a steep hill to climb.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Meal highlights: Hamachi, sweetbreads, bucatini, lumache, monkfish, olive oil cake
Behind the bar: The Italian list is stacked with sparkling wines well beyond prosecco, but the inspired pairing for Jaeckle’s Japanese-tinged food is Il Carica L’Asino, a spicy white reminiscent of sake.
Vibe: In an awkward limbo between rustic and refined, All’onda is better suited to a business dinner than a romantic date.
Cocktail chatter: Nautical nods to Venice are everywhere; there’s a giant abstract photo of the city’s canal, boatlike cushion ties on the banquettes and sliding doors with porthole windows.
Soundcheck: True to All’onda’s name (which means “of the waves”), noise laps gently over the room.