Kate Krader
November 06, 2007

When the day comes that corporate eating establishments are reviewed I know that the Food & Wine test kitchen will be awarded four stars from the New York Times and three stars from the Michelin Guide. F&W's kitchen turns out terrific food all day long, so it takes a lot to get me out of the building to eat during office hours. But I was intrigued by what I heard about the staff meal at  Manhattan's Oceana restaurant, under the guidance of its great new chef, Ben Pollinger. Staff meals, if it's not self-explanatory, are the food that the kitchen and waitstaff eat before the dinner rush starts, and while some places spend about $1 to feed their crew, others go to great lengths to put out a delicious spread. Even by that standard, though, Pollinger's meal sounded cool.  For one thing, even though Oceana is one of the city's premier fish restaurants, Pollinger buys pork every week or so just to feed his team (and not just any pork; he buys uber-sustainable, pricey Heritage Foods pigs). The day I stopped by Oceana, Pollinger had slow-roasted a few spice-rubbed pork shoulders,  as well as succulent cider-glazed country ribs. They were accompanied by buttery pan-roasted corn with cilantro lime and awesome buckwheat spaetzle, made just for staff meal. There was even dessert: Pastry chef Jansen Chan, who was experimenting with sweet potato souffles for the restaurant menu, had whipped up a pretty delicious, moist sweet potato pound cake. There are definitely a few drawbacks: you have to eat standing up; it's pretty hot in the kitchen; and there's not much time for dinner when you still have to prep the evening's lobster special. Still, I'd go back to Oceana for a staff meal any time I got invited. Especially for the full-on, sit-down Thanksgiving dinner complete with coveted Heritage Foods turkeys, which sounds like it might be one of the best holiday meals in town.

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