Governor, in DUMBO, Brooklyn, the latest effort from the team responsible for the hip and wildly popular restaurants Colonie and Gran Electrica, is a modernist farm-to-table concept headed by chef/partner Brad McDonald. I’ve been encouraged by a number of friends to try out the first two of the brand, but still haven’t been to either. When The Gov opened, and I found out a friend of mine was working the kitchen, I made a point to pay a visit sooner than later.
So on our big night off together for the week, Rocky and I called in a reservation and requested to sit at the chef’s counter. We started dinner with a bottle of Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blanc Champagne. Green apples and yeast on the nose. Citrus acidity and brioche on the palate with light minerality and beautiful bubbles. A fun bottle.
Looking over the savory menu of the night, we found about ten things we wanted to try. Chef McDonald(who was genuinely welcoming, super cool, and enthusiastic) came over and introduced himself and asked how we were doing with the menu. After a little back-and-forth, we gave him Carte Blanche, and this is how our night went:
1st: Poached Oyster Toast, Lobster Emulsion, Sheep’s Sorrel. Island Creek Oysters gently poached, served on crunchy crostini. I’m not sure of the base for the emulsion, but it was balanced, savory, and still light. I always love the citrus-like acidity of sorrel, and in this instance, it was thoughtful condiment to the oysters.
2nd: Lobster Consomme, Apple, Fennel. A chilled consommé with impressively strong lobster flavor, with poached lobster, Pink Lady apple granite, shaved fennel, and fennel fronds. Rocky thought the consommé was ‘Too Lobstery’, but I thought it was fantastic, especially set off by the herbaceous fennel. And I loved the scent it left on my lips.
3rd: Grilled Chicken Wings, Cucumber, Thyme, Mustard Barbecue. Confit boneless chicken wings grilled ‘Japanese Style’ and plated with grilled and pickled cucumber, mustard bbq, and onion flowers. The sauce, which they called ‘South Carolina Style’, was a hit. I like the char-to-freshness ratio of the cucumbers. The onion flowers gave a potent, vegetal, allium spice. A fun play on a classic bbq dish, and a definite winner with my date.
4th: Beef Tartare, Mussel Emulsion, Watercress, Ramp Capers. On crackers made of tapioca and pickled ramp water. This bowl smelled like the ocean. And left a feeling and flavor in my mouth like I just ate seafood. Lovely beef flavor is prominent on the palate and set off by brilliant ramp capers. Very creative. I’ll surely order this if I see it on the menu next time. Rocky wants a bag of the tapioca chips.
Bread, Butter and Radishes. Warm sourdough baked in-house. Light, but firm crisp to the crust. Fluffy crumb. Spicy fresh radish. Butter, topped with salted rind of Timberdoodle cheese.
5th: Tomato ‘Tartare’. Smoked Tomato Water. Mint Oil. Poached Mackerel Cream. Toasted Bread. This didn’t pack as strong of a seasonal tomato deliciousness as I had hoped for, but the combination of the tomato with the smoke and mint certainly put me into deep-thought-mode for a moment.
6th: Summer Beans, Whipped Salt Cod, Chorizo Oil. A selection of beans, all cooked appropriately, peas, pickled peppers. The whipped cod was pleasantly subtle, and very light. The peas were great in the chorizo oil. Strong flavors restrained just enough to accentuate a beautiful plate of legumes. This was my second favorite dish of the night.
7th: Charred Baby Corn, Goat’s Milk Feta, Cilantro, Gulf Prawns. Lime Juice, Shrimp Oil, Cayenne. Big winner. The corn was marvelously fresh and juicy. The Prawns were cooked spot-on. My favorite plate of the meal.
8th: Glazed Celery Root. Embryonic Egg Yolk. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Mousse. Lemon Zest. I adore celery root; this example maintained the right amount of crunch without being tough. The embryonic yolks were cured and grated over the slices of root and spots of mousse. Deep richness was brightened by the lemon zest. I’m very happy to have had this and can still recall the dynamic flavors.
9th: Porgy Fillet, Swiss Chard, Fish Sauce, Tapioca, Chile Pepper, Cilantro Oil. My piece of fish was cooked perfectly; great flavor and texture. The crisped skin was lovely. The chard, described as ‘wilted’, had a wonderful strength still in the leaves as well as a nice spice. I’d have been pleased with just the fish and the leaves. I didn’t like the tapioca. I’d have preferred a more firm or crisp grain or potato to the gummy starch.
10th: Chicken Breast, Corn Pudding, Chanterelles, Sugar Plums. Buttermilk. Tarragon Oil. The breast was de-skinned, wrapped with activa(meat glue), re-skinned, poached, and quickly fried to crisp(I hope I have that right). A tender, tasty piece of poultry. The sweet and creamy corn pudding and chanterelles were a great accompaniment. I wasn’t a fan of the sugar plums and felt they were misplaced in this dish. A good plate of food, though the overall flavor seemed a little heavy for summer and more suited for autumn.
11th: Strawberry Sorbet, Brioche Macaron, Berries. A superb little dessert. The density I like in a macaron meringue, straight-forward strawberry flavor, and fresh berries. Simple and gratifying.
11th: Cucumber Sorbet, Sour Cherry, Soured Cream, Thyme. The sorbet had a delightful fresh flavor and was enhanced by the thyme. I would have liked more sorbet in ratio to the sour cherries and cream that took over the bowl.
12th: Apple Cider Soufflé, Cherry Kernel Creme Anglaise. An aroma like fresh-baked apple pie. A well-executed soufflé. Light and puffy with delicate flavor. I think the ramekin was sprinkled with sugar because there were small caramelized bits spotted throughout which were a fun surprise. While it was a little much for me to handle by the end of our menu(the photo belies its grandeur), I see this as an ideal dessert to follow two or three savories at the gov.
Something I often find of farm-to-table restaurants is they maintain high scrutiny in sourcing perfect ingredients(fresh, local, organic, sustainable, etc) and use them to deliver boring plates of food. Governor easily bucks that trend. Brad McDonald’s food is pure, honest, creative, and exciting.
I’ve been told the cocktails at Governor are excellent. I didn’t try any, but since Rocky is in DUMBO regularly for work, I anticipate we’ll be stopping in soon to see what’s shaking.
Date of visit: August 1, 2012
Drinks while typing: Tito’s with fresh citrus, blueberries, and seltzer(thank you Rocky for all the refills); Blue Point Toasted Lager
Governor. 15 Main Street. Brooklyn, NY. 718.858.4756 http://www.governordumbo.com/