Why You Need to Try the New Menu at The 21 Club

Sylvain Delpique
Sylvain Delpique. Photos: Courtesy of The 21 Club

New Yorkers are buzzing about how the food at the iconic ’21’ Club has never been better. And that’s thanks to Sylvain Delpique, a native of France and alum of such notable eateries as Artisinal and David Burke and Donatella. Here we catch up with Delpique to get the scoop on all the menu changes, and how he’s giving American classics a modern French twist.

How long have you been in New York?

I came to New York seventeen years ago from my native France.

How did you get the position at ’21’?

I was recommended for the position by the current ‘21’ general manager, Theodore V. Suric, having worked with him in the past,.

What were the greatest influences on your cooking career?

My upbringing had an enormous influence. Working with mom in the small family garden and learning to cook with my father instilled a respect for fresh ingredients at a young age. Naturally, I have also learned something from each of the amazing chefs I’ve worked with throughout my career.

21 - Octopus Carpaccio

What were the challenges when you started at ’21’?

I came to ‘21’ specifically for the challenges. The size and scope of the operation is incredible. We run a bar/lounge, a la carte dining room and ten private dining rooms on five floors. Plus there is the legacy of the brand.  The ‘21’ Club means something to a lot of people, and the culinary program is a big part of that. It has been a very rewarding challenge to fine tune the iconic ‘21’ menu while staying true to its classic dishes. And to find new ways to incorporate my style and elevate the menu without straying too far from tradition. None of this would be possible without developing a strong culinary team. That has been one of my favorite parts of the experience so far.

How did you change the menu?

‘21’ has an established clientele, but we also want to appeal to a new audience. With any menu changes, it is important to remember all our guests. I approach menu changes in a few different ways. At the very beginning, I focused on elevating the quality and sourcing of ingredients. Then I began creating “my classics”, such as the Octopus Carpaccio, Foie Gras Terrine, Chicken Paillard and Lamb Bolognese which are now featured regularly every season and I am proud to say have become guest favorites. For us, it is all about creating contemporary interpretations of classic dishes. We want to stay authentic to our past but still appeal to the palate of today’s guest.

21 - Tuna Tartare

What are some of the most popular dishes on the new menu for lunch, for dinner?

For lunch, the Tuna Tartare with Crème Fraîche, Caviar, and Sauce Gribiche and the Chicken Paillard with Baby Arugula, Tomatoes, Shaved Cucumber, and Parmesan sell quite well. Of course classics such as the Crab Cake and ‘21’ Burger are still incredibly popular. For dinner, I would say that the Foie Terrine with Peach-Pineapple Marmalade and Sicilian Pistachios, the classic Dover Sole, the new Mustard and Garlic Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb and the entire assortment Prime Age Beef dishes are the most popular.

Are beef dishes as popular as they were 10 years ago?

Absolutely. At ‘21’ beef is as popular as it was 10 years ago, if not more so. 

What new dishes have you introduced this season?

The spring menu has some wonderful new dishes, including Burgundy Escargot with Parsley-Fennel Butter and Garlic Breadcrumbs; Raviolo “Carbonara” With Ricotta Di Bufala, Egg Yolk, Spring Peas and Bacon Lardons;  and Skate ‘Grenobloise’ with Baby Carrots, Brown Butter, Meyer Lemon, and a Citrus Reduction.

Your favorite dish or dishes on the 21 menu?

I am very excited about the new Escargot. I’ve spent a lot of time honing this dish and I love the fact that our guests are responding.  We are also working on beautiful new service items for it. One my favorite dishes to eat is the Lamb Osso Bucco with Roasted Tomatoes and Merguez Couscous on the prix fixe menu. The North African spices that we are using remind me a lot of my youth.

What restaurants do you like to dine at when not at 21?

My son, Dillan, and I enjoy going to Ariyoshi in Sunnyside. It’s a great neighborhood spot with authentic dishes and fresh ingredients. My personal favorite spot is the Cannelle Patisserie in Jackson Heights. From the pastry to the breads to the Jambon Beurre Sandwiches, it is practically impossible to highlight just one dish. Perhaps, my favorite is the Croque Monsieur for its quality ingredients, house-made bread and a taste of home that transports me back to France in a single bite.

What’s the hardest dish you ever had to make?

Last year, I was very fortunate to be invited to participate in the annual Pâté en Croûte competition. The talent was incredible as was the process. Creating a Pâté en Croûte at a professional level is very difficult. It is a never ending process – you can always make a better version.

Secrets to your success?

Feedback is very important to me. Though it is occasionally hard to hear, I seek it out and learn so much from it.  Also, I never sit still and think that’s absolutely a plus. I’m always looking to create something new, try something new, and experience something new. I love to experiment with our nightly specials. There I can test new flavors and new techniques and get my team excited about being part of the process with me.