Bergen Hill restaurant used to be located in Brooklyn and recently moved to Manhattan in June 2016. Owners Ravi DeRossi and David Kessler moved to 64 Cooper Square for more space, although when you see how small this place is it is hard to imagine how small their last place must have been. This place has no kitchen or no prep kitchen, just a bar with a few stations, like the raw bar, the seafood bar and the hot prep area that has three hot plates and a mini convection oven. It is amazing what they can produce in this tight space. Chabrol in Toronto comes to mind. The warmly designed interior is lined with royal blue tufted banquettes, blue and white tiled tables, high ceilings and lots of raw wood detailing, with a Mediterranean feel to it. They did a nice job with this forty-seat space, and this memorable meal is a tough ticket to get. The reason why? It has some of New York’s best and most creative seafood dishes. Executive Chef, Anthony Mongeluzzi’s focus is on seafood and vegetables, so if you are a carnivore don’t waste your time coming here. But if you like seafood and raw fish, you are in for a treat. The food is prepared with small tapas size dishes. Typically one of my top pet peeves, the reason I’m not groaning is each dish comes out one at at time. The small dishes really allow you to appreciate the unique flavours and preparation. What’s more, they change the cutlery and dishes for almost every course. Everything was unique, fresh and exquisite tasting. We started with the lobster toast. It seemed like there was a full portion of lobster on this dish. It was tender and flavourful and sitting on a bed of chopped lobster salad in a tarragon oil dressing with pickled hearts of palm. The hamachi in a white soy ponzu with onion, jalapeño and togarashi was a lighter dish. The hen of the woods mushrooms with a mushroom purée, kohlrabi and pickled hon shimeji was very appealing. We also tried the kale wakame, which had the texture of seaweed. It was a marinated kale, with pickled shiitake, fresno and sesame oil. It had a nice kick to it. But there were two dishes that were transporting. The langoustine with egg yolk carpaccio and matchstick potatoes in a crustacean sauce was dreamy and the calamari tagliatelle in a pomodoro, lardo and gremolata was outstanding. You would think you were eating a spaghetti bolognese sauce.
You really need to come here with more than two people so you can work your way through the menu. The octopus and the black bass dish looked awesome. Also, the cauliflower toast and burrata toast looked like something I would like to try another time. The raw bar is another feature which includes oysters and tuna with olive, currant, jalapeño and toasted almonds.
They only offer one dessert. The evening we were there we had a warm olive oil cake with the creamiest saffron ice cream and a strawberry compote, that tasted way better than it sounds.
The meal was a unique dining experience without the jaw-dropping price tag you often find in New York.
I am not going to lie, the place is not easy to find, even with GPS. The taxi couldn’t find it and let us off on the street. We called the restaurant and the host literally walked out on to the street to guide us in. Just tell your driver you want Cooper Square. Look for the Chase Bank on the corner and Bergen Hill is in the same building off a side street.
It’s a great neighbourhood spot. I haven’t seen this kind of creativity and execution from a kitchen in a long time. The negatives are the portions are small and better shared by no more than two people. Also, some of the food could be served hotter. But when you see what equipment they have to cook the food on, you may be more forgiving.
Bergen Hill offers a concise menu of seafood, signature toasts and vegetables. The artful plating, friendly, cozy atmosphere, affordable, delicious food, and unpretentious and engaging service (Thank You, Robert!) make for a glorious evening!