Crain's

Jan.21-27 2002

Romantic Lawrence Scott is seductive in all respects
Newcomer's portions can be overwhelming

By Bob Lape

The Lawrence Scott restaurant is a brand-new delight, providing everything you'd like in a dining experience, and more. It arrived under the vacation radar late last summer. It also represents the heartwarming story of personal triumph of will over adversity, with a role for all of us.


Lawrence Scott is who and what this restaurant is all about. The Long Island-born chef/owner created the cuisine, decor and wine list. Chef Scott says cooking has been in his blood forever, inspired by his mother's food.
He took his first cooking class at age 6. He later graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and went to France. It wasn't just a brief stage, but two years at the Hotel Crillon in Paris, with further kitchen training at Lucas Carton.
Next, Mr. Scott went to Monte Carlo to work with Alain Ducasse. Among the lessons learned: "He thinks of everything in the dining room as well as the kitchen."


In Monte Carlo a few months later, a motorcycle accident left the young chef paralyzed from the waist down.
It has taken five years of work on himself and his dream of owning his own restaurant, and more than seven months to build it on the site of a former Kenny Rogers Chicken franchise, but with strong family support Mr. Scott has pulled it off. "My heart is in here," he says. It shows.


The Lawrence Scott Restaurant is one of the most romantic restaurants to debut in many months. It is warm and handsome, with formal yet personalized service by attractive, attentive people. Its 54-seat dining room and 13-seat lounge are divided into small islands of privacy, with soft, effective lighting enhanced by tall candles at each table.
Warm shades of brown and ingenious wine installations are counterpoints to a bold painting by minimalist Sol LeWitt, done for the restaurant.


For once, music-performed by jazz pianist Skip Weinstock-meshes impeccably with mood, milieu and meal. Guests tend to dress up even though there is no code.


The Scott food style is modern with French, Italian and Asian accented dishes rich in flavor and eye appeal. Move past first-rate sourdough bread and focaccia to sophisticated gumbo with crabmeat, grilled shrimp and spicy andouille sausage. Mixed winter squash bisque is perhaps the best I've had.


The dome-shaped duck confit lasagna is another fine starter that is almost meal-sized. A riot of fresh baby vegetables and lettuces go into the Farmer's Salad. Other winning starters ($8 to $12) include smoked salmon on a potato pancake with cucumber and tomato salad and horseradish cream.


Chef Scott skews his winter menu to hearty fare. Presented over herbed fettuccine, braised lamb shank falls from the bone at the nudge of a fork. Cabernet-braised short ribs with risotto and root vegetables join roast pork tenderloin, roast rack of lamb with couscous, and grilled filet mignon.


There are lighter dishes such as pan-seared sea scallops with truffled celery root puree, or miso-marinated Chilean sea bass with carrot puree and roast baby bok choy. Sesame-crusted ahi tuna takes honors with plate-mates of wasabi mashed potatoes and sauteed pea shoots. Roast chicken is paired with asparagus basmati rice and mushrooms.


If the kitchen errs, it is in being too generous. Mr. Scott thinks the neighborhood requires big portions.
Desserts ($7) designed by consulting pastry chef Wayne Harley Brachman also loom large. His trio of chocolate ice cream sandwiches could serve three people.


Then there are fresh beignets, five of them with warm chocolate sauce for dipping. When chocolate was not finished, hot milk was poured into it. Et voilà, hot chocolate! One way or another, the Lawrence Scott Restaurant wins your heart.


The small ramp permitting owner Scott to enter in his wheelchair is a step up to a special restaurant.

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