Vegetable-loving chef John Fraser is back to basting beets at his Upper West Side restaurant Dovetail. The acclaimed — and Michelin-starred — restaurant reopened last week, after just over a month of renovations, and a lot has changed in that time. With ten years in the kitchen here and a second restaurant, Narcissa, under his belt, Fraser decided the time was ripe to revamp the menu and ask questions about what his team was cooking and why. At Dovetail 2.0, which has ditched à la carte for tasting and prix fixe formats, Fraser’s approach is more clarified and focused, the culmination of a years-long shift toward a vegetable-focused, California cuisine sensibility.
“When I started this vegetable journey, we were interested in making them mimic meat, using lots of barbecue sauces,” Fraser says. “After a while, I became more interested in making the best mushroom dish or what have you.” The menu is also geared to the pleasure principle, eschewing avant-garde technique or combinations in favor of cooking that nods to backyard summer dishes, like cedar-baked mushrooms, a riff on the traditional salmon preparation, meant to evoke something familiar with a slight twist. But even if diners don’t immediately pick up on Fraser’s points of reference, he isn’t sweating it as long as they think the dishes taste good. “When I read Hemingway, it makes me want to write,” Fraser says. “Our food is approachable, but it makes you want to cook. When things are simpler, it makes them more delicious.”