By Rory Winston
Think Chelsea;’ it’s more than likely you’ve already started imagining yourself strolling down a gallery-riddled boulevard with colorful personalities splashed on for good measure. If, however, you’re trying to grasp the history that went into making this area what it is today then there are certainly more revealing and impressionistic journeys to be had. One such journey is Moran’s.
Less an ordinary restaurant than a living exhibition on the evolution of the community, Moran’s juxtaposes contemporary American cuisine with historic décor. With moody fireplace, tin ceiling, exposed brick walls, Tiffany lamps, and Waterford Crystals, the recherché trappings make it easy to recall everything that led up to the Irish pub that first opened its doors in 1957.
Housed within a building that dates back to the 1880’s, one senses how a quiet colonial area soon became a bustling center for longshoremen, sailors, distillery workers and odd groups of immigrants. As for the prominent cherry wood bar discretely standing among the other functional artifacts, it is a survivor of the prohibition period – one that had likely played an instrumental role in keeping bootleggers and speakeasy clientele in good cheer.
When it comes to food, Moran approaches dishes like a painter an empty canvas. Dazzling your palate with blue point oysters, garlic shrimp, and fried calamari, the opening is a vivid reminder of the culinary show that is about to take place.
Soon, it is time for the pastoral backgrounds to make their appearance: cucumber pear with field greens, toasted almonds in a sherry honey dressing; Arugula with feta cheese; artichoke with blue cheese; or asparagus with goat cheese. With a virtual meadow of flavors from which to choose, the mood for the main course is set.
Like most well-curated events, the central pieces of the meal are accompanied by minor works that echo the dominant theme. Grilled salmon is beached on a sandy shore of rice and spinach while garlic roasted peppers and butter sauce dot the periphery. The pan-seared red snapper comes with broccoli rabe and fingerling potatoes, while the shrimp scampi is shown in its best light with linguini and white wine bringing just the right flair. Whether opting for the grilled lamb chops, New York strip or the roasted chicken, it is hard to overlook how well these vintage creations fare once restored with contemporary redress. For a decadent flight of fancy, try the gaucho burger - made of Black Angus ground beef with garlic cilantro - alongside an order of truffle Gorgonzola fries.
If a new category of restaurant could be established, I’d probably list Moran’s as a ‘gastronomic gallery’. Fine dining in her premises is a crash course in understanding why Chelsea and its history are so unique. •
146 10th Ave
New York, NY 10011