Like a band's sophomore album or a director's new film, the latest restaurant from a well-known chef is always judged against its predecessor. Rarely, though, is that comparison so apt as it is with Dominique's on Magazine. After all, this is essentially a redo of an excellent but short-lived restaurant, now drawn on a larger canvas and put in a grander frame.
Chef Dominique Macquet opened the first Dominique's on Magazine in 2010, racked up rave reviews and then abruptly left his namesake before it reached its first anniversary, citing disagreements with the owner (who revamped the restaurant as Apolline). Tamarind by Dominique followed quickly, and despite an intriguing French/Vietnamese fusion concept, it also lasted less than a year.
Given this recent history, then, it's reassuring that the new Dominique's on Magazine at least looks permanent. It's a sleek, white, intricately detailed modern space that stretches over two floors and continues into a sheltered courtyard. There's a feeling of sanctuary in the stylish coolness inside, especially when the world outside is blazing hot.
Many ideas from the original Dominique's on Magazine are realizing fuller expression here. At the original iteration, herb gardens were crammed between shotgun alleys, but here they flourish from wall-mounted beds and hydroponic columns. The new place's longer bar doubles as a dining counter.
Most notably, many of the dishes that won Macquet earlier acclaim are back on an elegantly eclectic menu. There are the same sweetbreads with chimichurri and lobster salad lightly dressed with aioli. The unique beef tartare still has its charred edge, imparting deeper flavor, but its new lacing of bits of onion added only soggy texture when I tried it.
A couple of chilled seafood dishes also are familiar. The shrimp ceviche is a fairly conventional blend of seafood marinated in citrus juices but it is a touch too astringent. But Macquet's unique oyster presentation still proves brilliant. Poached, cooled and returned to their shells, the oysters are cuddled with a smooth creme fraiche/cauliflower concoction and daubed with a silken, spicy tomato sauce.
Most entrees are rather modest plates defined by immaculate main ingredients and a restrained hand. The beef coulette, an uncommon cut of sirloin, carries a seam of Creole cream cheese but otherwise speaks for itself, and thin, green mango relish accentuates the ocean freshness of skin-on yellowtail snapper. And it may seem silly to order spaghetti and meatballs at a restaurant decorated with light-projection art installations, but this version uses the same Kobe-style Wagyu beef and delicate, fresh spaghetti that proved a sensation when it debuted at the prior address.
Great attention also goes into the cocktails and desserts here, and neither should be missed. But of course, people who remember the first Dominique's on Magazine would expect that.