Attempts at creativity occasionally go off the rails, as with the slow-poached cod drowned in an overpowering squash-ham broth and topped with foam. The swordfish pastrami appetizer is just plain odd: mushy, gefilte-fish-like ribbons with a smoky corned-beef flavor, a smear of pumpernickel, and a startling scoop of cold mustard gelato.
This penchant for contrasting flavors and textures flows into the dessert menu, too, in a Pavlova that pairs mouth-puckering grapefruit and sugary disks of meringue, prompting a table-mate to exclaim, “I feel like my tongue was in a street fight.” The other sweets are more successful, although beware the butterscotch pudding. It’s creamy-caramely-tangy heaven on one night, burnt and sour on another.
Gilson clearly has an affection for both modern and classic American cuisine. Diners who start the meal with bone marrow mousse and mustard gelato will end it with notecards accompanying the bill that are printed with recipes for codfish dinner or cream chicken and lobster Newburg.
Whatever he’s doing, the culinary gods approve. In addition to his restaurant’s James Beard award, Gilson, who is 30, made the semifinals for “rising star chef of the year.” The chef and his restaurant didn’t make the final cut, and he has some kinks to work out, but Gilson is not afraid to experiment, and sometimes fail, and that’s as it should be.