Inside New York’s First Caviar Speakeasy
“We like to think that we offer a departure from a firm tradition—caviar on our menu is a centerpiece of some dishes, and a complement in others,” begins Buddha Lo, executive chef of HŪSO, New York’s first-ever caviar speakeasy. Within an 800-square-foot plush café awash in tones of ocean blue, tucked behind the Upper East Side’s two week-old caviar shop Marky’s on Madison, Lo has launched an elegant, seven-course, caviar-laced tasting menu priced at $200.
“We want our customers to be able to experience how versatile caviar is,” says Lo, who sources his caviar from the Florida-based parent company behind HŪSO and Marky’s on Madison, Marky’s Group. Selling caviar culled from around the world for the last 35 years, the Marky’s team was keen to hit a promising market, while exploring an approachable new medium to introduce the ocean’s black gold to younger diners. They hired Lo to helm the tiny 12-seat caviar-focused dining concept behind their first Manhattan store.
HŪSO—named after a species of beluga sturgeon that produces some of the world’s priciest caviar—debuted its à la carte lunch menu on April 22 when Marky’s on Madison opened its doors, but the team waited to introduce the evening tasting menu on May 3—one that’s open to just 12 diners per night, with a single flat seating at 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
“Not many chefs get to work with caviar,” states Lo. “You see it as a prized dish in every Michelin restaurant, but you don’t see it in every single dish,” continues the chef.
Prior to his year-long line cook stint at New York’s heralded fine-dining institution Eleven Madison Park, Lo served as chef de partie at Gordon Ramsay’s namesake three Michelin-starred London flagship, and before that, Lo was in his native Australia, working as chef de cuisine at Melbourne’s contemporary Italian fixture, Matteo’s. And now, in New York, Lo is weaving one of the world’s most prized luxury ingredients into dishes both familiar and new.
Lunch at HŪSO’s runs daily from noon to 5 p.m., and guests order dishes like a $45 elevated play on a hot dog with king crab served in a brioche bun, plus pickled mustard aioli and an eight gram trail of Beluga di Venezia caviar. There’s also bread service for $30, which includes a puck of foie gras topped with Kaluga Amber caviar served beside a dish of creamy, cultured butter, crowned with more of the same caviar, totaling around eight grams. And though those prices may seem high, just as a point of reference, Marky’s sells 28 grams of Beluga di Venezia for $275. So, considering that price, the caviar alone on the king crab dish would run nearly $80.
Beyond Lo’s plated dishes, guests have the option to try classic caviar service via flights, or opt in for one to three and a half ounces of domestic and imported caviar, the spendiest of which, Almas Russian Osetra, fetches nearly $1,600 for three and a half ounces. To drink alongside, Champagne: from Dom Perignon to Krug to Cristal.
Meanwhile, HŪSO’s dinner service follows a more structured tune. Lo’s seasonally-inclined, New American bill of fare highlights seven types of caviar paired with complementary flavors, like six grams of briny Siberian Premium Sturgeon atop a fried chicken oyster in a rich garlic and cream sauce, and his interpretation of Russian-inspired Olivier potato salad spiked with nine grams domestic Sevruga caviar. And the chef is even pairing caviar with dessert. His ode to the classic flavors of milk and honey yields a honey-filled honey cake supporting a scoop of milk ice cream, crowned with six grams of Russian Imperial Golden Osetra caviar and a crispy leaf made from more honey. Caviar-accented dessert as its finest .
HŪSO, 1067 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10028