Taking the Fifth


The spirits course

Over the summer I got to know the two young chefs—Charlie Kleinman and Jake DesVoignes—who were promoted to top status after the departure of Melissa Perello. They’ve been running the Fifth Floor for most of the year.

The news is out now that, for some reason, the hotel hired Laurent Manrique to take over the famed destination restaurant, and he has in turn installed his choice, Jenny Lorenzo, in the head spot. (All this I learned from the most excellent Tablehopper, by the way.)

Anyway, in the wake of all the change, Charlie and Jake decided to get out of the Fifth Floor at the end of this month before the space’s remodel in early 2008 and will be embarking on their own project in the future. So, I went by to enjoy their cooking before it’s gone for a while.

The meal was spectacular, both in terms of execution, selection and creativity of conception. It left me feeling very sanguine about the future of these two young chefs and excited for them to get their project off the ground sooner rather than later.

The meal was many courses, but I’ll leave with you some of the highlights. Everything was accompanied by wines from the excellent list of sommelier Emily Wines. I did not get a chance to talk to her about her fate in all this upheaval, but I’ll update on that soon. And the reason I mention all this on the drinking blog is that in the tradition of great chefs, Charlie and Jake are great drinkers (I’ve seen them at it at Cantina) and wove a bit of a boozy theme into their tasting menu.

New England clam chowder

The New England clam chowder, for instance, had three spoons so that the diner could add, successively, caviar, bacon and apple. We were on our second bottle of Champagne, so I decided not to order the hearty New England Ale that I wanted to go with this course. (Champagne went better, anyway.)

Boilermaker Course

Later came a showstopper—what Charlie called the “Boilermaker Course:” a spoonful of rib-eye cooked sous-vide with a Hirsch 16-year-old whiskey reduction, chased with a shot of Hitachino White Ale, and a spoonful of short rib cooked in Springbank 12 single-malt scotch with a chaser of Ayinger beer. It was a curious dish, but delicious all around.

Finally, Emily’s wines serenaded us with a crazy profusion of spirits to taste from Basil Aqua Perfect to Talisker 30 to Yquem 1993 to 1985 Bas Armagnac to Fernet.

All in all, it was an unforgettable meal from the team at the Fifth Floor—a team that will soon be dissolved. I urge you to try to get in the last few weeks before Charlie and Jake leave for their culinary road trip. In the event that you don’t make it, I’ll be keeping you apprised of what these two talented chefs—and able drinkers—will be doing next.
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