The Art of Dining at Guernsey Park
Photos by Carli Wentworth
Cooking – The Act Of Selecting And Combining Raw Ingredients, Applying Heat And Pressure To Coax Them Into A Greater Harmony Of Flavor – Is A Wondrous Wkill; making a meal from scratch that tastes great is a genuine art form. But the ability to make that meal also look great, to create food that dazzles the eye as well as the palate, is even more remarkable, and an excellent reason to seek out the secluded jewel called Guernsey Park.
Set off N.W. 23rd Street and Shartel on the edge of a residential neighborhood, Guernsey Park is itself a converted old house, giving a little extra undertone of domestic comfort to its coolly contemporary vibe: lots of pale wood and white cushions, dark wooden tables and chairs, huge swaths of natural light.
The genre is Asian Fusion, in the sense that the menu has a burger, but it’s topped with a papaya salad and lime aioli. You can order fried chicken, but it’s marinated in five-spice sauce before being battered and fried, and while the dish includes mashed potatoes and green beans it all sits in a soy-sriracha béchamel sauce. Some dishes have an Asian spin, some are purely Asian, all have what I’d call high production values; a combination of tremendous visual appeal and expertly balanced complex flavors.
The server (who was great, by the way) told us that public opinion strongly favors the Chicken Lollipops appetizer – playfully presented chicken wings with a sweet chili sauce – but I’m breaking with orthodoxy on this one: you need to start with the Tuna Tower. The cylinder’s alternating strata of rice and tuna tartare are topped with a layer of green apple salsa and a dab of avocado mousse. The tiny red roe don’t seem to affect the taste much overtly, but add a little explosive crunch to the overall texture. It’s light on the palate, with a tangy, sweet, cool, amazingly complex flavor. Perhaps most impressively, no component overpowers the others.
That’s also true of the Grilled Nem Nuong, which is listed under “Salads” – probably because there’s no category for “Assemble Your Own … Something Great.” It does feature romaine lettuce in a peanut vinaigrette, but most salads don’t include grilled pork sausage bites or spheres of coiled vermicelli noodles with sprigs of cilantro and mint. You know what, though? Their loss. Chef Vuong Nguyen even maintains the flavor balancing act with the Curry Salmon, a pan-seared filet with the crispy skin still on top laid on a bed of potato hash, in a pool of velvety yellow curry.
For dessert, the Carrot Cake is a must-try. The cake itself is fine, a little dense perhaps, but the title component is far from the star: check out the two little scoops of cream cheese ice cream, a piece of ginger wafer, translucently thin candied orange slice and wild heaps of crispy orange peel shavings, with candied pecans and a little drizzle of rum caramel.
Let me not equivocate in my sincere recommendation: everything I’ve had here has been marvelous, and that’s an open statement since I plan to become a semi-regular starting immediately. Plus, I’ve spent considerably more money on meals elsewhere that were vastly less satisfying. That seems pretty conclusive to me … but go visit Guernsey Park and enjoy doing your own research.
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