|A Corner of the Bar at Buvette|
At a recent meal, the tartinette pomodorini / small toasts with stracchino and cherry tomato included the pleasant surprise ingredients (not disclosed on the menu) of sundried tomatoes and capers, mixed in with sweet, roasted cherry tomatoes. The soft, oozy stracchino elevated the simple appetizer into surprisingly luscious and decadent. There was an excessive amount of olive oil drizzled over top, but if you tilted the toasts to let some of the excess effluvia run off, the tartinettes were a delight. I enjoyed the textural study of sundried tomatoes and roasted tomatoes, side by side.
A dense version of brandade de morue / house salt cod with olive oil, milk and garlic came in a cute terrine jar with a stack of sliced baguette. The ratio of cod to potato was high enough to be flavorful, but not so high as to make the preparation unpalatable to dining companions who don't ordinarily like fish. The spread was so rich, I felt like Mitt Romney just eating it.
|Brandade de Morue|
The poulpes aux olives / octopus salad with celery and olives was a well balanced dish. Octopus was tender, but not mushy, with some chew remaining, which I personally enjoy. I didn't think the dish was standout compared to some of the neighborhood's best octopus preparations (L'Artusi has a wonderful one and Recette often does a nice one, too), but it was perfectly competent and likable.
|Poulpes aux Olives|
A companion ordered the lentilles du puys / a pot of stewed lentils stewed with kale. This was the only dish I was completely underwhelmed by at this meal. Flavors were dull and unidimensional. That it was a vegetarian preparation ought not to've been an excuse; dal preparations certainly don't lack dimension. The kitchen could've done something to add layers to the flavor -- used a roasted vegetable broth as a base, perhaps, or toasted fennel seeds -- or it could've at least preserved the lovely texture of the lentils de puy. Luckily, I didn't have to take primary responsibility for eating this dish.
|Lentilles de Puy|
Salsify aux Roquefort / salsify cooked in red wine and honey was also a relatively simple dish that did not impress us overly much. Although the deep red salsify made for a stunning presentation, flavors were surprisingly dull, in part from lack of salt in the salsify component. When eaten together, the Roquefort added a nice, saline balance, however.
|Salsify aux Roquefort|
The gratin de choux fleur / cauliflower gratin with gruyere was easily the most likable dish of the meal. It came bubbling enticingly under a brown spotted gruyere crust. Creamy, sweet cauliflower melted into creamy, sweet cheese, the perfect embodiment of comfort food.
|Gratin de Choux Fleur|
A cassoulet / pot of slow cooked duck, pork and beans was classic and classy. Unlike some other restaurants, Buvette doesn't skimp on the duck confit or take shortcuts that dilute flavors. All of that ducky goodness was well infused into the slow cooked beans and vegetables, yet flavors of the individual ingredients remained clean and clear.
I did not try the tarte tatin that some of my dining companions shared, since I'd already eaten more than my fair share of the dessert-weight brandade de morue, but as you can see, it was a beautiful, thick, fat slice and nicely caramelized. Our dining companions reported that it was not overly sweet and they ate it with such relish, I'm sure it was delicious!
I did sample a spoonful of Justin's chocolate mousse, which he almost sent back, thinking he'd been given a brownie by mistake. No mousse could be this lusciously thick, could it? Au contraire! The generous scoop of mousse probably incorporated a full pound bar of cocoa butter. In my elementary school cafeteria, some intrepid kid would've flung some to the ceiling to see how long it could stick. And it would've stuck for several years. Probably, though, someone would've climbed up there and licked it off the ceiling, it was that good.
Note the charming pop-up design! It looks like it was painstakingly glued on by hand.
42 Grove Street
New York, NY 10014
Food Rating: A- / B+