First Impressions: Crown Shy

James Kent was a downtown kid in the mid-90s tagging subway cars for fun when his mother convinced him to ask David Bouley for a summer apprenticeship. He was 14. Fast forward to this March, and the chef has his first solo project with Crown Shy, the Fidi newcomer at 70 Pine. In between is a long line of notable successes and awards at some of the best restaurants in the city. (For me, Danny Meyer is royalty, so I am loving this lineage: Meyer opens Eleven Madison Park. He sells it to protégé Daniel Humm, who then raises up Kent who eventually decamps for the Michelin-starred NoMad.)

But wait, there’s more. Kent has opened Crown Shy with partner Jeff Katz, who comes from Del Posto where the restaurant won a James Beard award for outstanding service, and the two are scheduled to open more restaurants in the building later this year, including a top-floor joint to rival Meyer’s Manhatta (you see the circle coming together??). (Kent is also an accomplished graffiti artist who continued to hone his talent on the streets and at LaGuardia High School till he was arrested in his teens.)

The first press pictures made me think it would be a casual, small affair, but the space is in fact quite elegant and spacious — leather, stone and cream –- without being stiff (there’s also a sweet party table off to the side). (An appreciative nod goes to the graphic designer, whose interpretation of Crown Shy is done up in neon at the entrance, below.) The restaurant hovers one flight above the street at 70 Pine, which, with its spectacular deco lobby and soaring ceilings, adds a good dose of formality to the place. But the staff is warm and convivial – you can see that reflected in the way Chef Kent reacted when I showed up at the edge of the open kitchen with my phone, grabbing his staff and leaning towards me. When I asked the waitress if they do a lot of yelling in the open kitchen, she said the only thing she ever hears yelled is “oui.”

The pull-apart loaf with olive tapenade on the inside is almost worth the trip. The four of us ordered everything to share and nothing was left at the end, especially not the cauliflower. (Confession time: as is the trend, the chicken came with a foot and I had to send it back to have it – well — dismembered. There’s no way I could get through a meal with those claws on the table. Somehow it didn’t faze my Australian tablemate.) The menu is simple but sophisticated, and we couldn’t get enough of a German pinot noir (I know!) they were pouring. I will leave it to the food critics to do more to describe ingredients (here from The New Yorker).

A final note on the name: it’s a bit abstract but somehow it works. Crown Shyness is a scientific term for the way that the crowns of trees grow toward each other but don’t overlap. Instead, they form narrow channels between them, sort of respecting each other’s space. With the Pine Street address, it seems fitting.

Crown Shy
70 Pine Street (Pearl and William)




1 Comment

  1. Crown Shy has posted a lunch menu – soft opening Tuesday 7/16 with reservations beginning the following week!