Locally sourced rules the menu at Crescent Grill

By Suzanne Parker

“What’s a nice restaurant like you doing in a place like this?”

Crescent Grill sports a striking post-modern exterior, ensconced on one of the grittier corners of the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City. Its neighbors mostly sport lowered roll-down security doors, with the exception of one with an intriguing display of roach kicker boots.

Once you’re inside, Crescent Grill is a stylish, upscale eatery. The interior appointments express the current trend of handcrafted re-purposed materials as faithfully as the menu adheres to the current orthodoxy of locally sourced sustainable ingredients. Very Brooklyn. The space also houses an art gallery with a changing display of local Queens artists.

This endeavor is the brainchild of the Dougherty brothers. Dan manages the front of the house. He is also the art lover of the team. Brother Shaun, who studied at Pittsburgh Institute of Culinary Arts, makes it happen in the kitchen. While running a restaurant in St. Croix, Shaun learned what he considers “the most important skill,” of building relationships with local farmers and purveyors. They are joined by Executive Chef Milton Enriquez, a veteran of the TV show “Chopped” who has cooked in some of Manhattan’s most celebrated kitchens.

Crescent Grill offers a seasonal dinner menu, either prix fixe or a la cart, and a lighter lounge menu featuring upscale pub grub. Their bar is well stocked, and offers an interesting selection of small batch whiskies. A Crescent Sazarac cocktail is made with Widow Jane bourbon, a whiskey made in Brooklyn using water from caves in Rosendale, N.Y. that once supplied all the natural cement used in New York City. Alas, Pernot was substituted for absinthe, but it still made a darn tasty cocktail.

The menu is original with a touch of daring. It’s the first Queens restaurant where we’ve encountered frogs’ legs, and I’m so glad we did. The legs were like the silkiest “chicken” we’ve ever eaten, nestled into bibb lettuce leaves, surrounded by braised Vidalia onion, snow peas, and cute little cubes of balsamic gelée. Wild boar tenderloin, another delight, was rich and earthy, accompanied by cauliflower, braised baby romaine, and sauced with a ginger bernaise. Creamy English pea risotto was another unusual treat. The risotto was enhanced by combination of ingredients including blue foot mushrooms (an assertive fungus), duck confit, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

The mains were two big hits and two sort-of misses. Butter poached lobster was a study in luxury. A bountiful portion of lobster was positioned on a cushion of fennel bread pudding. There were crosnes, those odd little Jerusalem artichoke-like tubers; cardones, a cousin of the globe artichoke and black trumpet mushrooms all hanging out with the lobster. It was a study in indulgence. The other hit was a hefty braised Colorado lamb shank confettied with cubes of roasted root veggies and glazed kohlrabi. Grits did starch duty.

On the minus side, nicely pan roasted Atlantic salmon, from the prix fixe menu, was served with under-cooked cranberry beans, providing crunch where there shouldn’t have been. Day boat cod annoyed us. Not only was the cod portion stingy, but we were robbed of the broccoli rabe. Plain old broccoli was substituted, without advance warning or apology. How did they know that we didn’t order the dish just to assuage our lust for broccoli rabe? How I hate it when unannounced substitutions are made.

The Bottom Line

Crescent Grill has a lot going for it. Talent in the kitchen. An imaginative and sophisticated menu. Stylish ambiance. However, it still feels like something of a work in progress. The pacing of the meal was slow with lengthy lags upon ordering and between courses. If the starters were time consuming to prepare, there should have been some complimentary nibbles besides mini biscuits, tasty as they were. We think that Crescent Grill has the makings of a top notch fine dining experience, in a part of Dutch Kills without too many options, and expect them to hit their stride real soon.

Suzanne Parker is the TimesLedger’s restaurant critic and author of “Eating Like Queens: A Guide to Ethnic Dining in America’s Melting Pot, Queens, N.Y.” She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].

Crescent Grill

38-40 Crescent St. at 39th Avenue, Long Island City

(718) 729-4040


Price Range: Starters: $12-$14, Main Courses: $28-$30, Dinner Prix Fixe: $29/3 courses. An 18 percent gratuity is added to all checks.

Cuisine: Modern American locavore

Setting: Stylish designed with repurposed and handcrafted materials.

Service: Attentive

Hours: Happy Hour: 4 pm to 6 pm, Monday-Friday; Dinner: 6 pm to 11 pm, Wednesday-Friday; Weekend Brunch and Dinner: 11 am to 11 pm

Reservations: Recommended on weekends

Alcohol: Full bar

Parking: Street, Valet on weekends, Shuttle service from throughout LIC to and from restaurant. Call (718)729-4040

Dress: Casual to dressy

Children: Welcome

Music: Recorded

Takeout: Yes

Credit cards: All

Noise level: Acceptable

Handicap accessible: Yes