When it was completed in 1932, the Cities Services Tower at 70 Pine Street was the third tallest building in the world, behind only the Empire State and the Chrysler. And for most of its nearly 90-year career, the Art Deco skyscraper has hosted corporate offices, most notably the insurance giant AIG. In 2016 though, 70 Pine emerged from a complete (though careful; the building was landmarked in 2012) renovation as a Q&A Hotel on the first several floors, and luxury rental apartments the rest of the way up. And now, as of last Monday, it is also home to one of the city's great new restaurants, Crown Shy. The restaurant's name is a nod to the neighborhood's sky-crowding towers; "crown shyness" is the phenomenon in certain species of trees whose canopies will grow close to one another, but never touch.
Crown Shy is the first project from a pair of serious players in the NYC restaurant scene. The head chef is James Kent, who ran the kitchen at Nomad and was chef de cuisine at Eleven Madison Park for eight years before that; and Jeff Katz, the managing director at Del Posto. And in all ways—the food, the service, the space—the place is an absolute stunner.
The restaurant takes up the southeast corner of the building's ground floor, with seating for 120 guests (Kent and Katz have another restaurant and bar opening later this year, all the way up on 62, 63, 64, and 66, so stay tuned for that). There's a spacious open kitchen giving energy to the room, 16-foot windows letting in light, steel columns, leather banquettes, and a 30-foot granite bar greeting you as you enter. Designed by MN Design Professional Corporation, it is an exceedingly pleasant space in which to spend a couple of hours eating.
To get inside Crown Shy you have to pass through the building's fully-restored Art Deco lobby. In fact, the welcome desk sits outside the restaurant proper, and your coats and bags, if you choose to check them, disappear down another hallway altogether. Clearly the Crown Shy crew have full run of the place.
While billed as a "neighborhood restaurant," this food is much closer to what most of us would call fancy. Prices are relatively reasonable, with almost everything except the four entrees costing less than $20. You should be prepared to spend some money.
My companion and I ate ten different things during a preview dinner, and they were all fantastic. Up in the starters section the Gruyere Fritters, which are like churros oozing with cheese, are sure to become a signature snack, but don't sleep on the simple-sounding White Bean Hummus. This comes with two types of bread, one puffy, the other greasy and flat, and it's likely the best dip you'll have all year. An excellent bonus: your server plops a loaf of warm Olive Pull-Apart Bread on your table after you order.
There are about a dozen mid-sized dishes on the menu, from bright and salad-y to dense and loaded with carbs. The two pastas are total bangers, a Cavatelli with chicken liver ragu and horseradish, and impossibly creamy cheese-stuffed Caramelle, topped with porcini mushrooms. There’s Charred Carrots with razor clam chowder, a bowl of crisp and sweet Chicories with grapefruit and mozzarella, Red Snapper crudo, and a decadent Glazed Farro strewn with bone marrow and oxtail.
Entrees get up there in price, but if you’re feeling flush the Braised Short Rib for two will absolutely make you happy. The parade of beef squares, traipsing across a bridge of bone, are perfectly cooked, but there's also lots more awaiting you beneath those buttery whipped potatoes. Your other options for mains involve Grilled Porcelet, Citrus-marinated Chicken, or a Loup de Mer.
The desserts, from chef Renata Amini (who's also from EMP), are large, sinful, and delicious. Everyone is going to be raving about Amini's take on Sticky Toffee Pudding, and rightfully so, because it will buckle your knees. But the Chocolate Tart, the Pineapple Pavlova, or any of the three ice creams (we had the Roasted Banana with caramel and peanut butter) are also first-rate ways to finish your feast.
As you can tell from all of the above, there’s no single culinary theme at Crown Shy beyond “things that people like to eat, cooked really, really well.” Expect to see this place on all the Best of 2019 lists.
Crown Shy is located at 70 Pine Street, at the corner of Pearl Street, and is open Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 until 11 p.m. (crownshy.nyc)