GREENWICH, Conn. – If you haven’t yet heard of Chef François Kwaku-Dongo, it’s probably time you got out to eat more. Chef François is the executive chef at Greenwich’s sleek new eatery, eleven 14 Kitchen, inside the JHouse hotel, a study in boutique luxury. He comes to Greenwich by way of Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s West Hollywood eatery. And it is fair to say Chef François has brought a little of the west coast sunshine and flair for the dramatic with him.
Walking into the broad, open dining room at eleven 14 Kitchen feels a little like a red carpet affair in itself. Countless windows welcome in the early evening light (which makes everyone look good). Low, luxe leather banquettes imply cozy, V.I.P. gatherings, and not a single detail is overlooked. From chandeliers to rescued wood floors, the stage is set for what could easily be an award-winning evening.
The menu is a study in New Global cuisine, which is to say that Chef François is marrying his California Cuisine experience with his African heritage. Hailing from Côte d’Ivoire where his grandmother had a cocoa farm, Chef François incorporates his layered gastronomic background into a single menu at eleven 14 Kitchen, and the adjacent Chocolate Lab, a café celebrating coffee and chocolate, each in their most creative and artisanal forms.
“I grew up on this cocoa farm,” says Chef François. “But I never knew where it went, or what happened to it until I came to America. Seeing that evolution through was amazing and very gratifying.”
The premise of eleven 14 kitchen’s menu is to incorporate as much locally-sourced and organic ingredients as possible, which predetermines a menu that will change with refreshing regularity. Highlights from my recent dinner include a tuna ginger soy carpaccio. The sushi-grade tuna literally melts in your mouth. The homemade spicy lamb sausage was a warm and delicious nod to merguez, the North African dish. And the homemade duck sausage pizza is not to be missed. The roasted smoked pork chop with fennel-rhubarb chutney delved juicily into the local palate, and the grilled bone-in-rib eye came complete with a marrow spoon for those looking to dig deeply but delicately into Chef François’ culinary offerings.
The desserts were every bit the robust and sweet counterpart to the dinner’s savory selections. For me, the particular standout was the summer peach and rhubarb cobbler, a perfect balance in tart and sweet.
Eleven 14 Kitchen is truly a must-try for area foodies, and worth battling traffic on the I-95 corridor to do so. Come ready for your close up, because eleven 14 kitchen is one to watch. And you never know who will be looking.
For more on the JHouse hotel, read our recent profile.
Eleven 14 Kitchen is located inside the JHouse hotel, at 1114 E. Putnam Ave. in Greenwich.