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The Peninsula New York Brings the Farm to the City

New York has been locavore-mad for years. But few bring the farm to the table with the elegance of The Peninsula’s new Clement. Colleen Clark gets a taste.

Reclaimed wood, Edison bulbs, sugar beets. That’s been the recipe for restaurant success for much of the last half decade in New York. The return to ingredient driven, rustic-tinged fare has given the city a culinary conscience, an appreciation for our rural neighbors and a whole new world of ingredients. But how does that translate in one of the city’s most elegant hotels? Deliciously in the case of Clement, the new restaurant at The Peninsula New York.

That’s thanks to Chef Brandon Kida. After stints at the tony Asiate, Lutèce and L’Orangerie, Kida logged time at the sustainable Blenheim Hill Farm in upstate New York, honing his knowledge of local produce and proteins, the producers responsible for them and the possibilities for their use in his cuisine. “When you really start to look at what you’re eating and what you’re serving to the public, you want to know more. Where is this from? How was this animal treated?”

A native of LA, the chef has had a diverse culinary upbringing. His father cooked traditional Japanese food, his mother an anything-goes mix of international fare. But it’s his home city that most informs his cooking. “The flavors of Los Angeles lean towards the flavors of Mexico. They’re very robust and powerful. But at the same time you have the rest of the people that live in LA, blending together to create this light, vegetable-drive food. When I create a dish it leans towards that mix,” Kida says.

When it came time to create the menu for Clement, Kida drew inspiration from the stories of the ingredients he had studied at Blenheim and the relationships that he’d built up with local producers and filtered them through the elegant French and Japanese techniques he’s honed throughout this career. The result? Subtle yet intensely flavorful dishes that celebrate the story of the ingredients. His technique sublimates the raw materials without being showy. Take the suckling pig, prepared as a sort of pave by deboning, removing the tender parts and then rebinding its proteins via a complicated process using enzymes. “The technique is cutting edge but you would never know it was there.”

The technique may be stealth, but the presentation is anything but. Kida works with a ceramics maker in New Jersey to create plates designed to specifically highlight each particular dish. They arrive at the table, beautifully composed homages to their ingredients—a delicate curve of aubergine, a dab of brilliant spring pea green, frills of cilantro flower. It’s all part of Kida’s desire to create a holistic experience. “When it comes to movies, I’m a total Hollywood ending kind of guy. And I want this to be a Hollywood ending restaurant.”

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