We walked into the diminutive space and noticed it was PACKED. So packed in fact, that we had to wait 15 minutes for our reservation. Now, we were relaxed and enjoying ourselves, but I could see how this might really annoy someone. In fact, on another night, I would be that person. I am REALLY a stickler for being seated on time.
This seemed to be the MO of the place, though, and people just took it in stride, sitting at the tiny bar or chatting in the ante chamber of the restaurant. So, we relaxed and were seated by 8:15
Hamachi Crudo with Harissa Mayonnaise and Sea Bean. This amuse bouche was spicy with the harissa, tangy with the citrus marinade and altogether lovely. It was a nice riff on a classic – I have had buttery hamachi before, but never with harissa, which gave a smoky heat to the crudo. The sea bean brought out the saltiness of the fish and was a crucial element. Well thought out and tasty.
It was Jessica’s first tasting menu, and I can’t TELL you how much joy it brought me to share this experience with her! Each time that a new dish came, she clapped with joy and listened intently as the server explained what was placed on the table. She couldn’t believe the multiple plates that kept coming to our table, and loved how the small servings let her try more and more items. It reminded me why I love eating – that it fosters conversation and community, and is an experience not only for the mouth but for the mind and the soul.
Heirloom Tomato, Peekytoe Crab, Hearts of Palm, Tarragon, Aged Balsamic. The heirlooms are just starting to get sweet and juicy, and using them with tender crab that mirrored their sweetness and softness was a delicious move. Hearts of palm were toothsome and absorbed the tangy-sweet balsamic vinegar, and the tumble of frisee worked with licoricy tarragon to pull out the meaty texture and rich flavor of the crab. No one component was the star here, rather, it was the mixture of all ingredients that made the dish memorable.
Roasted Foie Gras with Peppercorn Biscuit and Spiced Honey. Okay, we did a supplement here. A $20 one. But it was Jessica’s first foie gras. Her FIRST foie gras! As she put it in her mouth, she actually covered her hand with her heart and gasped.
Crispy, salt flecked crust gave way to an almost liquidy center that was the very essence of organ meat: liver-y, iron-y, funky, delicious-y. The spice-infused honey was a worthy counterpoint to the fatty meat, though a bit of stone fruit or even some endive would not have been amiss to cut through the richness here. The biscuit was dense, crumbly and spicy with pepper – perfect for sopping up the sticky, zesty honey.
Ocean Trout, Spaetzle, Cockles, Hummus, Cilantro Pistou, Pickled Onion. This was a good, if not great dish. The fish was cooked perfectly – seared on the outside but medium rare and silky within. The hummus was more of a sauce than a dip, but was a bit too heavy and cloying for the delicate fish, as were the rather aggressively tangy onions. The cilantro pistou on the other hand, was an excellent pairing – light, fragrant and bright next to the deliciously crispy spaetzle. This was a rather salty dish – it was flavorful, but had me dry mouthed for hours afterwards.
Berkshire Pork Belly, Rock Shrimp, Turnips, Romesco, Sherry Caramel. This is it. Come here for this. The best pork dish I have had in New York City. Crispy layers of fat gave way to the melting fat underneath and tender, pull apart with your fork layers of pork. Lacquered in the sweet and sour umami taste of the sherry caramel, it was topped with the most perfectly cooked popcorn shrimp I have enjoyed since Danji. Shrimp and pork are an ultimate combo – all of us non-kosher Jews can agree upon that. The simply boiled turnip added a vegetal crunch to the crispy-soft pork and the romesco alongside…well, I’ll be honest. I don’t remember the romesco.
And it was such a generous portion, I couldn’t even eat it all.
Our palate cleanser was a Red Wine Poached Plum with Greek Yogurt and Pistachios. Jessica thought it tasted “like Christmas,” and she was spot on. This had the spicy, jammy notes of a great mulled wine, with the sweet plum and fatty pistachios playing off of the complexities of the spices. The tart yogurt kept the dish from being cloyingly sweet, and it prepped our tastebuds for…
If all s’morescajeta(goat’s milk caramel that was at first impossibly sweet and buttery, then with a light burn that made the rest of the dish taste sweeter than ever), and a very dark, very chocolaty wafer. A high end variation on a well loved classic.
And that was the way this meal worked – there were many dishes that I have seen before, all done slightly differently and suually to excellent effect. The service was a bit harried, and the tables were definitely cramped – this is a place for friends or for long-term romantic interests, not a first date. You are really crammed in there. But you know why you are crammed in there? Because the food is great. And for how much food you get, and the quality of the ingredients, it is a great value.
Recette was really worth the wait.