It makes for a great Broadway story: a street-savvy teen growing up in New York’s tough Lower East Side finds his culinary calling. He wins apprenticeships at some of the world’s most prestigious kitchens and through continued determination and hard work eventually heads up a successful string of restaurants. But because no good tale goes without a bit of drama, the next act sees him selling the shares of his main outlets and closing down his last remaining self-owned restaurant, leaving audiences to wonder, “Shit, what’s going to happen next?”
No, it’s not the back story to that 1980s Spandau Ballet hit, but the life of chef-cum-restaurateur Harlan Goldstein. The “chef to the rich and famous”, as he’s known in restaurant circles, left diners wondering when he unceremoniously cut ties with several of his most popular restaurants (including the eponymous Harlan’s which just relocated from IFC to The One) three years ago, keeping only his LKF outlet Tuscany by H (which he subsequently closed in mid-October). In his version of a climactic return, he’s stepped back onto the restaurant stage with a triumphant grin on his face and unveiled his latest and much-hyped project Gold by Harlan Goldstein.
True to expectation, the new restaurant smacks of Goldstein’s larger-than-life leanings. An extensive makeover, courtesy of Hong Kong designer Kinney Chan (Hyde, Solas), has stripped the space of any remaining traces of its former Nordic tenants, FINDS. Replacing what was once a subtle, snow-white countertop is a brilliantly gilded island bar. The main dining room is swathed in rich hues of black and gold, leading to a beautiful alfresco terrace dolled up with a trickling waterfall. Yes, if you haven’t figured it out already, everything here is an attempt to be not just better than before, but also a lot more lustrous.
Gold’s menu extends beyond the fine-dining Italian fare Goldstein was plating up at Tuscany by H. More ethnic NYC touches are evident, most notably in dishes such as lamb kofta served with flatbread, hummus and mint, and crispy falafels with pesto dressing. But catering to a clientele heavy with regulars (i.e. bankers) dating back to Harlan’s IFC days, the restaurant also revives old favourites, including Goldstein’s hand-crafted pastas and char-grilled steaks. And if you thought Tuscany by H’s wine menu was a what’s what of pricy bottles, Gold’s menu lists rare vintages that clock in at upwards of a mill.
After browsing through the diverse menu several times, we opted to start with an appetiser of seared foie gras with sweet black fig jus ($198). The slab was elegantly plated with a small scoop of tart green apple sorbet on a bed of julienned apples. The acidity cut through the richness of the foie gras, making for a promising first few bites. But of the three main components – foie, fig, and apple fruit – none of the flavours seemed to carry enough weight on their own to sustain and keep the dish exciting to its end. The Hokkaido sea scallop carpaccio ($178) fared better. A slow-cooked egg rested at the top; cut open, the runny yolk flooded over the plump scallops, creating a delectably rich and creamy mess.
In full gluttonous mode, we decided to tackle Goldstein’s signature Big G wagyu Fiorentina steak ($1,180). The designed-to-share 35oz monster arrived at the table in a large square dish, decorated with small sides of roasted cherry tomatoes, arugula and wedges of tad-too-dry rosemary spuds. The steak was carefully seasoned with Peruvian rock salt and pepper, and grilled to a perfect still-bloody medium-rare pink. The flawless preparation was impressive for a steak of this size. We ooh-ed and aah-ed over its tenderness and intense, meaty flavor, and split between two of us, it was a whopping 17.5oz of meat that we happily devoured like nobody’s business.
We’d also like to take a minute to shine the spotlight on Gold’s pastry chef Lee Ka-mei. With the exception of the “exotic fruits on ice” ($78) – which despite its exciting name, turned out to be a glass of berry sorbet – the desserts we sampled stole the show and left us wanting even more. The Berry-Berry Fantastic cheesecake ($98) arrived in a bowl lined with chocolate crust, topped with an invigorating berry gelato and mango-infused foam. The only thing we loved more was the chocolate macaron ($88). More than just the regular meringue-ganache sandwich, this was a delicious multilayer concoction that alternated between chewy, crispy macaron shells and subtly sweet berries and mascarpone cream. Served on a long dish with a side of coconut gelato flecked with dried coconut bits – this is the stuff that dreams are made of.
While the food didn’t disappoint, Gold still has some kinks to sort out, especially in terms of their front of house operations. Upon sitting down, we were asked if we’d like to start with some prosecco or champagne. Never averse to the idea of starting with bubbly, we answered with a “sure” and were quickly presented with several glasses. It was only when the bill came that we realised they had served us one of the more expensive Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin champagnes ($258/glass). We don’t mind splurging on good bubbly, but if it’s going to be more expensive than a foie gras appetiser or even a main course, a heads-up would be nice. We’ve been reassured that Gold’s taking ample measures to iron out its service kinks. Only time will tell if they manage to succeed.
Even with that minor hiccup in the meal though, we’d still like to congratulate Harlan on his big comeback. We’re definitely glad to see such a personality return to the dining scene. Just like Tony Hadley once sang, “Gold, glad that you’re bound to return...
you’re indestructible…” Cue piano solo.
2/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St, Central, 2869 9986; www.gold-dining.com. Mon-Thu noon-2.30pm & 6.30pm-10.30pm, Fri-Sat noon-2.30pm & 6.30pm-late. Meal for two: around $1,700.
|Venue name:||Gold By Harlan Goldstein (CLOSED)||Contact:|
2/F, LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham St