Chef Craig Hopson
Chef a big addition at One if by Land, Two if by Sea
By Frank Angelino
At One if by Land, Two if by Sea, the historic and romantic Village restaurant, hand holding across a candlelit table rivals fork holding. Heightening the slightly edgy charm of the place as a romantic hideaway is its link through unofficial lore as having once been the carriage house of Aaron Burr, Thomas Jeffersons vice president, best known for killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
The restaurant has hired Craig Hopson, a creative young chef from Picholine on the Upper West Side, to give new life to the menus perennial favorites, like beef Wellington and the dark-chocolate soufflé. Some might wonder, however, why One if by Land, Two if by Sea would tamper with a seemingly recession-proof formula.
Oscar Proust, the restaurants owner for the past eight years, who took over from the original longtime owner, proudly notes the improvements he has made to revitalize the 36-year-old eatery.
Ive replaced the rugs with wide-plank wooden floors, put antique chandeliers in the dining room and eliminated the 1970s partitions, he said. Touches like two life-sized portraits gracing the dining room help give the space both a colonial and modern feeling at the same time.
Recently bringing in Hopson was equally important in the restaurants transformation. Chef Hopson was a surfer in his native Perth, Australia, before embracing a cooking career. Among that careers highlights, he said, have been stints at two three-star restaurants in France cooking with Guy Savoy and Alain Senderens, before landing at New York Citys Artisanal, in East Midtown, and Picholine.
I tasted Craigs food at Picholine before I hired him, and I loved it. I gave him carte blanche to do whatever he wanted to do, said Proust, who manages the business end by day. Colleen, his wife, runs the flower-filled place at night. Proust says that he tries to eat there at least three or four times a week.
Hopson is very engaging and talks enthusiastically about his cooking.
My style is sort of continental French and I make the food as interesting as I can, he explained. I try to make dishes taste delicious with different elements of texture.
The standard menu is a three-course $75 prix fixe and Hopson says 40 percent of customers will order the filet of beef Wellington. The chef has elevated the popular 1950s dish by using, as he puts it, better beef and seasonal roasted vegetables with a foie gras sabayon and a drizzle of Bordelaise sauce. The chef works international flavors into his pan-seared black sea bass, which has tandoori-flavored oil, roasted grapes and preserved-lemon yogurt.
Things should be on a plate for a reason to make exciting dining, Hopson said. Certainly falling in that category are his appetizers: marinated John Dory sashimi with leeks, radishes and winter truffles and his gruyere gnocchi with Burgundy snails, yellow-foot mushrooms and bottarga.
According to Proust, Hopsons being in the kitchen means, Having access to more fresh, more diverse and more organic products.
The restaurant is immensely popular, attracting more than 200 diners on a weekend night. Proust and Hopson have created new options so patrons can enjoy One if by Land even more fully. They recently opened for Sunday brunch and theres a new, imaginative bar menu that makes it easy for those who want less than the prix fixe menu or would like to dine alone at the bar in the high-ceilinged front room. While the front room is further away from the coveted window tables in the rear of the dining room facing the garden, its closer to the music from the elevated piano player near the entrance.
Some intriguing items on the bar menu are monkfish cheeks Bang Bang with turnip and tamarind, and tempura hen-of-woods mushrooms with orange salt and truffle aioli.
This is a special-occasion restaurant where were trying to do good food; so people come whether or not its an engagement or an anniversary, Hopson said. I like to think the majority are focused on the food.
One if by Land, Two if by Sea, 17 Barrow St. (between Seventh Ave. So. and W. Fourth St.), 212-228-0822; www.oneifbyland.com; open for dinner seven nights and Sunday brunch ($20) 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; chefs tasting menu $95 and $150 paired with wines; private party room seats up to 45 persons; street-level access.