New Baldwisville restaurant is a new culinary destination
By Christopher Malone
The Chef & The Cook at 7 Syracuse St., which opened in the beginning of June in the heart of Baldwinsville, is stirring the culinary and local culture pot. Chef trio and co-owners DeAnna Germano, Mark Germano and Jason Jessmore’s promise is to step up the culinary game with shareable plates and entrees.
The Central New York suburb commonly known as B’ville should be a prime location for foodies. It sometimes feels stagnant. No news may be good news, but not for culinary culture. Indecisiveness regarding switching places, names or themes of restaurants do not count.
The village has potential to be a go-to Central New York destination, and it’s 20 minutes from Syracuse. The village is incredibly scenic and boasts historical aspects, including an Erie Canal lock; plus, it has an amphitheater, which existed before amphitheaters were “a thing” in Onondaga County.
Baldwinsville has many private and family-owned businesses with longtime staples such as the notable B’ville Diner. There are sandwich shops and cafes. Several places are within walking distance.
Cue The Chef & The Cook. The restaurant, which inhabits the brick-walled space where pub Lake Effect once occupied, has already prided itself on taking risks. There is a fair amount of patio space for rustic alfresco dining, plus an outdoor raw bar. The one-sided menu halved, The Chef menu offers more unique food options. The Cook’s side of the menu features more familiar fare, but all items have a twist.
There are menu tasting options as well. Try a few courses for $125 a person, a pairing option for $165 a head and an “in the weeds” option, which, for over $200, a patron can try everything on the menu over the course of a few hours.
While the menu boasts an upscale attitude, the atmosphere is far from it. While this isn’t a T-shirt and shorts restaurant, it welcomes patrons looking for a comfortable, laid-back evening of conversation with craft cocktails, great wine and local craft beer.
We started off with the spring pea and parmesan (Chef’s Menu, $9) and the nacho plate (Cook’s Menu, $12). The first vegetarian dish boasts confit potato, roasted garlic, spring peas and homemade croutons. The plate is aesthetically bright and very well presented, and it was torched after the plate hit the table. The flavor wasn’t as vibrant as anticipated. Potatoes are potatoes, but adding more salt to coax out flavor wouldn’t have been a good thing. Regardless, the ingredients were fresh, the cloves of garlic were perfectly roasted, and the crouton crunches were delightful.
The nacho plate also proved to be a great starter option. The nachos come deconstructed for a hands-on, build-a-plate experience; the ingredients are placed in piles on the square plate, which looks like a floor tile, except for the chips in a bag. Our party of three had to be conservative with the ingredients aside the chips (in a brown bag) and the cup of incredibly delicious cheddar fondue. Toppings include tomatoes, scallions, avocado and black bean hummus. The hummus is simply, albeit artistically, smeared across the plate, but it’s barely enough for one person to enjoy.
The main courses arrived at an appropriate time after our starters were finished.
As entrees, we opted for Cook’s Menu items upstate skewers ($16) and the ribs and chips ($17), plus Chef’s Menu item lobster margarita ($19). The lobster margarita is exactly what it sounds like. Our server presented the meal in a margarita glass. The lobster meat, which basks in a pouch of butter and rosemary sous vide, was dumped into the glass. It’s that simple, but was so delicious. For a fancier food option, there is a fair amount of lobster. The cilantro, lime and onion accentuate the sous vide.
The chicken and potato upstate skewers come out on a metallic server that is frequently seen holding tacos. Two skewers are cradled in the outside beds, and a half-ear of grilled corn sits in the middle. The Cornell marinade chicken was very flavorful and grilled perfectly to charred crispiness, not burnt to the point where I was brushing char dust off my tongue.
The ribs are served with a scoop of pickled onions and hot peppers, plus a side of chips — the same bagged presentation seen with the nachos. The tactic is questionable — it’s obtrusive on a plate and a waste of a brown bag (which is stained with oil from the chips, so it’s not recyclable). The ribs, however, were not affected. The dry rub ribs blanketed with a Carolina mopping sauce proved definitely finger licking delicious. The meat is very tender and literally fell off the bone. Surprisingly, it wasn’t very messy.
Since the meal wasn’t overly filling, dessert was on our minds. We opted for the lavender and espresso crème brûlée ($7) and the chocolate cake ($7). The crème brûlée came out in a tea cup, and the top was torched to the point of bubbling. The lavender was very subtle, and the espresso didn’t steal the show. The dessert is one of the local best.
The dark and rich chocolate cake was topped with a thick, homemade dollop of whipped cream and sat in a small puddle of blackberry sauce. The sauce was also artfully splattered across the plate in almost Jackson Pollack fashion.
For three people, the bill came to $93.96 before gratuity.
The experience at The Chef and The Cook was a great reminder that eating locally and eating great food is important. Our time spent also reminded us that slowing down and savoring food is absolutely important. Food brings people together and it serves as a conversation piece. The new restaurant is worth a visit and a return.
The Chef and The Cook
7 Syracuse St., Baldwinsville NY
Tuesday – Thursday: 4 – 10 p.m.
Friday: 4 – 11 p.m.
Saturday: Noon – 11 p.m.
Sunday Brunch: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.