Best Starters (2003)

Clair de Lune

There's nothing that Clair de Lune doesn't do well, but the one thing Sean Kelly's place does better than anyone else in town is appetizers. Picture the plateau de fruits de mer -- one of the few mainstays on a menu that changes according to the whims of the chef and the winds of commerce -- with its spiced shrimp, half a lobster and immaculately fresh Littleneck clams and Malpeque oysters lying like knobby gems on a bed of ice. Or the antipasti misti -- a wildflower sketched in food with bright-orange persimmon, powerful house-cured sardines, roasted red peppers, caper berries, black olives, tiny cubes of marinated chèvre, homemade bracciole and crisp-fried baby artichokes drizzled with basil aioli. Yes, Clair de Lune puts out some wonderful dinner plates. Yes, it does great desserts. But in his starters, Kelly is painting a picture. To every diner who sees one of these plates in front of him, he's carefully explaining, in the best way he knows how, what that diner can expect from the rest of his meal: excellence, and nothing less.


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