A lot of New Yorkers love tomatoes — especially shoppers who scour the city’s farmers’ markets this time of year looking for vine-ripened beauties.
It’s those folks Michelin-starred chef John Fraser has in mind with the introduction of his tomato-centric menu to The Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he will be treating the juicy orbs like an art exhibit.
“The tomato is one of the most diverse pairings you’ll find. It allows itself to go sweet or savory,” he says.
“My general idea was to transform the restaurant in the same way that museums rotate single artists,” said the in-demand chef, known for vegetarian restaurant Nix.
“By showcasing one single best ingredient, we are mimicking the way the museum acts and reacts,” said Fraser, who also runs The Loyal, an American brasserie, and oversees all four restaurants at Ian Schrager’s new Times Square hotel, the Edition.
That is, of course, if you’re lucky enough to get one that actually tastes better than cardboard.
Sure, farmers’ market tomatoes are far superior to the bland products that pass for tomatoes in major supermarkets.
But US-grown tomatoes can still fall short of the earthy, juicy taste bombs so abundant in Italy and other parts of Europe. Even Fraser admits that the best tomato he’s ever had was in Provence in the south of France.
“I believe the simplest reason is that the tomatoes are picked unripe, and forced to ripen in boxes without proper nutrients,” he says of the lowly supermarket tomato.
Fraser didn’t have an answer for why farmers’ market tomatoes in the US also pale in comparison to those grown in Europe, but he said he thinks New York tomatoes picked in July and August are earthy and succulent enough to draw the crowds.
“The best ones are heirloom varieties,” said Fraser, who gets his tomatoes from the Union Square farmers’ market.
The menu, which launches Monday, will showcase an heirloom tomato gazpacho for $ 16 and a tomato-strawberry tart for $ 14 and a homemade pappardelle for $ 29 that comes with corn pudding and cured squash.
Fraser has even created a tomato water vinaigrette, which serves as a dressing for the grilled watermelon salad.
Not on the menu is a simple tomato salad — in contrast to an offering by top chef Eyal Shani, who was recently panned by this paper for trying to cash in on the summer tomato craze by selling a single tomato topped with olive oil and sea salt for $ 24.
Fraser says his partnership with the Met inspired him to think about the restaurant as yet another rotating exhibit. As such, the single ingredient-driven menu will change each season — with the next “show” due to be unveiled in October.
WE HEAR … that six Broadway musicals — “King Kong,” “Pretty Woman,” “Beetlejuice,” “Chicago,” “Tootsie” and “Waitress” — are teaming up with chef Geoffrey Zakarian and his flagship restaurant, The Lambs Club, to launch “Broadway Cocktails.” Once a month from now until December, Broadway show cast members will host an evening in The Lambs Club Bar, with complimentary cocktails and light bites.