Wonderfully decorated with muted metal and wood and softly lit by candles and chandeliers, Domain—in the space formerly occupied by Vareli—has appeared on Broadway between 111th and 112th streets. Although there hasn’t been a change in ownership, the new restaurant brings with it a revised culinary philosophy. It is now an environmentally sustainable restaurant that serves cattle raised and slaughtered with a conscience.
Domain combines its sustainability mission with a kitchen run by Michelin-starred chef Derrick Styczek. Unfortunately, these features come with a hefty price tag for the gourmet modern American cuisine.
At the start of my meal, two hand-kneaded pretzel sticks rested on wax paper in a miniature deep-frying basket on the table. I picked one up and broke it in half. It was a little stale, and I wondered if “olive oil puree” was a misnomer, because the dip had hints of garlic and the consistency of melted butter that had been in the refrigerator. At that point, the restaurant was scoring points on presentation, but not taste.
The surf and turf small plate, which consisted of Snake River farms Wagyu beef and crab meat, was one of the most expensive appetizers at $16. Ordering definitely made me understand why people told me that Domain was pricey. Our starter came on a wooden plate capped with a glass dome. Tendrils of smoke billowed out as the server opened it to reveal the meat and crab. Two pieces of beef carpaccio lay in the center of the plate, topped with hand-shredded crab meat, fresh sprouts, and crisped garlic slices. The beef was fresh and tender, and had rested long enough that it wasn’t bleeding onto the wood. The crab meat was also soft, but stringy enough to complement the beef.
For my entree, I had the roasted veal with mushrooms and spinach leaves, and my friend ordered the braised beef short rib with natural jus. The fork-tender meat was somewhat overcooked when I tasted it, falling apart and failing to preserve the structure of the meat. The veal came covered in mushroom jus foam. It sat atop a bed of spinach sautéed with garlic. I see where the chef was going with the modern American cuisine label on this restaurant, but the Culinary Institute of America graduate has used primarily French techniques in constructing his menu of pot-au-feu, veau rôti, and sauces that mostly comprise of jus and reductions.
At Domain, you can taste the difference in the materials selected, and the amount of work put into each dish. And though there may be some sticker shock, that may very well be the price that you pay for such good food. Domain’s mistake is serving such fine cuisine in a casual college-town setting. While I appreciate the restaurant’s philosophy of fine dining in a relaxed, no-jackets-required setting, the check made me wish I had dressed up and come for an intimate date or birthday dinner. But I would have felt overdressed if I had—and because dining is almost equal parts hospitality and cuisine, I can’t shake the feeling that the casual atmosphere has somewhat dampened the quality of the superb food at Domain.
Domain is located at 2869 Broadway, between 111th and 112th streets.