Chelsea’s Offers Awesome, Fresh Twists (Dining Out Review)
Opened last fall in the building that has housed Kelley’s for so long, Chelsea’s has a brave new owner. Faced with all the challenges of the past year for restaurants, Marty Richardson made an excellent choice in retaining Terrence McRae, a talented chef with a clear understanding of contrast and balance, and giving him the freedom to add new and interesting dishes on the menu.
We used to go to Kelley’s and order the stuffed salmon every time just because it was generally very good. This favorite has been replaced by several delicious choices, so we tried out some of the new offerings on a recent Tuesday night. The results pleased us to have been pushed out of our rut.
The physical factory hasn’t changed much, and you can find some details about it here. It’s still a comfortable space upstairs and downstairs in the area dominated by the bar. In the upstairs dining room the noise levels are quite low and the employees are always so friendly and professional, seeming genuinely happy to see their customers.
The big changes are on the menu – tight, creative and seasonal – where entrees, including the soup and house salad, range from $ 5 to $ 13.99. The dishes include large salads with protein, and these range from $ 14.49 to $ 25.99. In the middle are flatbreads and burgers ($ 11.99 to $ 14.49).
Considering the creative seasonal cocktails (made with Chef McRae’s syrups), we skipped our usual wine with dinner and started with a French martini and a blackberry whiskey smash ($ 12 each).
Both drinks were strong, fruity, and pretty, the Chambord in the martini bringing together alcohol and intense fruit flavors, and the whiskey citrus smash and complex.
A short wine list is also offered, with bottles from $ 20 to $ 34, all at $ 20 on Wednesdays.
To start, we chose an asparagus flatbread ($ 12.99) and pork belly ($ 13.99). Both were excellent, with strong and balanced flavors.
Our crispy flatbread combined a garlic base with mozzarella and goat cheese for the richness and prosciutto for the salty taste which was noticeable but not overpowering. Hot peppers enlivened the mixture. The asparagus, in the midst of all of these intense flavors, almost seemed like an afterthought but was lovely and fresh. There was plenty for two.
Pork belly (pictured above) has become a standard in restaurants, but the treatment it receives in Chelsea is far above the norm. With substantial streaks of tender lean, two large cuts of smoked pork were presented, with notched and crispy tops, on a bed of smooth smooth cauliflower cream. Topped with a rich cherry and brandy sauce and a handful of crispy leek slices, the dish showed the chef’s understanding of balancing flavors and textures.
Again, there was enough for two people.
We enjoyed a flight of premium bourbons with our meal. Here, four double hits was a generous deal at $ 18. Two smoked varieties contrasted with two less smoky, but all were excellent.
Two steaks are on offer, both with attractive combinations of vegetable-based sides. We chose the eight-ounce flat iron ($ 23.99) for its asparagus and romesco sauce.
Our sliced steak was a perfect medium, richly tasty and tender. The smoked caramelized cauliflower and al dente asparagus were beautifully fresh and flavorful. The romesco sauce, dominated by smoked paprika and roasted peppers, pairs well with a tangy tomato relish. The combination was artistically plastered and delicious.
We love risotto and it influenced our choice of lobster risotto ($ 24.99). Here, the risotto had been made into a warm, crispy inch-thick cake supporting a slightly chewy and buttery lobster tail. A sweet saffron cream adorned the dish. But we were most struck by the combination of a thin layer of fresh spring pea soup under the risotto cake and tender pea sprouts that topped the dish.
Again, freshness characterizes both the ingredients and the creativity in the kitchen.
Finally, our desserts (all homemade) were as good as the rest of the meal. Our creme brulee ($ 7) was the wide, shallow variety we love, a rich creme with a nicely burnt top. The plate was adorned with whipped cream and a spiral cut strawberry.
Our blackberry cheesecake ($ 7) was in two round pieces, perfect for sharing. The dessert was very rich, topped with tiny blackberries and including mashed blackberries in the layers.
There are so many interesting combinations on the menu (e.g. chicken with chives, corn and cheddar waffles as well as balsamic chocolate and orange honey butter!) That we wished we had a few! others to help you taste more dishes. As it is, we’ll have to take on the heavy task of trying them out for ourselves over time. We look forward to the research!
NB: Chelsea’s menu prices “reflect a discount,” as the brand puts it, an increasingly common practice in local restaurants. We paid an additional 3.75% to cover the restaurant’s credit card charges.
Restaurant: Chelsea Restaurant and Bar, 5076 Velasko Road, Syracuse. (315) 478-6773.
Reservations? Yes, and recommended for six or more
Access for disabled people: Yes, with tables in an alcove and a secondary entrance with a ramp.
Credit card? Yes
Takeout / delivery? Yes
Dinner in? Yes
Car park: Large private lot
Noise level: Lower upstairs than the downstairs bar
Special diets covered? Gluten-free and vegetarian options are available.
Children’s menu? Yes
Cooking hours: Monday and Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Bar open until the last call. Close on Sunday.
Cost: Our multi-course meal representing most of the menu sections was more food than what two people would usually order, and the total with drinks, desserts, tax and tip was $ 175.58.
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