Next time you’re in New York, go and eat at Upland.
Oh, you want an actual restaurant review?
Let’s start with the setting. Clean, elegant and sophisticated with earthy touches that are a strong nod to the food that’s about to grace your table.
The interior is lined with shelf after shelf of preserved lemons in jars, each one illuminated by three tiny LEDs until they become something like citrus lamps. When their glow hits the copper trim around the dining room, it gives off a light warmer than anything I’ve seen in a restaurant before.
It’s how you want to be lit for the rest of your life.
And the food. Ahhh, yes. That food. It’s Italian by way of California where head chef Justin Smillie hails from.
After ordering a glass of prosecco and glancing over the menu my dining companion and I decided to order something from every course to share.
What came first was a pizza topped with soft and just-salty-enough stracciatella cheese, arugala and very thinly sliced Meyer lemons. Lemons. On a pizza. It slayed every preconception I had about putting (Meyer) lemons on a pie.
Next came almost-liquid burrata topped with a tangle of leeks and jewels of pink cara cara oranges. As I was eating a mouthful, I experienced the forehead-slapping “duh” moment of realization that citrus is the perfect foil for creamy, smooth, rich burrata.
At this point, my dining companion and I had stopped talking to each other. We were just whimpering about how incredible everything tasted.
What looked like a deep fried hydrangea arrived, as recommended by our server. It turned out to be an over-sized exotic mushroom needing just a spritz of fresh lemon as accompaniment. It tasted earthy and woodsy with a pleasing combination of crunch and softness.
Spicy spaghettini, that got its potent oceanic flavor from invisible baby sardines, showed up for our next course. It was like taking a bite out of the Mediterranean sea and cooked perfectly al dente. One mouthful had me transported to the Amalfi coast.
I couldn’t resist a classic for the final course, a skirt steak with romesco and bunching onions. While I love a good steak, it’s never struck me as a piece of meat that demands much from it’s chef. So long as its been well sourced, all the flavour has been taken care of long before it hits a searing pan.
This steak, however, was a sensation. Justin Smillie has a true gift for layering and building flavours. Everything on my plate melded seamlessly to create an unforgettable meal.
So if you find yourself in Manhattan, go. Go to Upland and thank me later.