|The Tell-Tale Heart... of Beef Carpaccio|
At two-and-a-half, Recette is no spring chicken by NYC restaurant standards, but boy oh boy has it aged well. I wouldn't be surprised if Chef Jesse Schenker were in the running for at least one Michelin star.
Recette strikes the perfect balance between innovative and familiar, refined and comfortable. Ingredients are exceptional. Plating is beautiful. The wait staff, many of whom have been with the restaurant since it opened, are just lovely -- sincerely nice people. I really think Recette must be one of my favorite restaurants in the world, not just New York City.
One of the most common complaints I read about the restaurant is that the portion sizes are too small to merit the prices. Justin and I are moderate eaters, not particularly light ones, and we've found the restaurant's three plates per person suggestion to be a fairly accurate guideline. One's sense of value is subjective, but to me, the excellent ingredients and the artistry of preparation justify the pricing.
The small plates portion of the menu progresses more or less from lighter to heavier, so many of the meatier dishes towards the end are as substantial as main courses at other restaurants. Portion sizes vary dramatically. A plate of salad is a "small plate". So is a composition that includes nearly a full lobe of foie gras with gribenes on the side.
At a recent meal, Justin and I started with the wild arugula salad with kumquat, mint, lemon, hazelnuts and ricotta salata. I didn't love this salad when I tried it the first time, in the middle of winter. But this iteration was extremely refreshing in the heat, a study of how enjoyable bitter flavors can be. Kumquats were nice and ripe, with a gorgeous, concentrated fragrance and a pleasantly acidic, bitter bite. When eaten with the well dressed arugula, the kumquat's sweeter notes began to come through. The fats from the ricotta salata and hazelnuts tempered the bitterness a bit without dumbing down the intensity of the flavors.
|Wild Arugula Salad|
The Hawaiian blue prawn crudo with fried heads, red sorrel, lemon and sea salt came as two plates. The first plate included two prawns split in half lengthwise, which were yielding without being mushy. The sea salt and the barely there sprinkle of ground red pepper highlighted the prawns' sweetness. The second plate presented the heads of the prawns deep fried to crispy, nearly greaseless perfection, perched atop slices of lemon. There was still some juicy prawn meat attached to the heads, causing the heads to burst open delightfully in the mouth (a scene straight out of a shrimp horror flick :).
|Hawaiian Blue Prawn Crudo|
A dish of marinated arctic char with oysters, crunchy salad, celeriac, bonito broth and bottarga was outstanding for the quality of the ingredients. The oysters, especially, were gorgeously plump and sweet. I initially didn't notice them hiding out underneath the arctic char and the bite I took of silky fish, juicy oyster and slightly smokey broth, together, rendered me speechless with surprise and delight.
|Marinated Arctic Char|
|Beef Carpaccio, Center|
A more mundane dish of roasted cauliflower raviolo with sepia, guanciale, mascarpone and "ocean broth" included meaty chunks of porcini mushrooms, much to mushroom-phobic Justin's chagrin. Non-mushroom lovers would enjoy the dish, though, and appreciate that the porcini camouflaged itself among the similarly sized chunks of guanciale to delicious effect. The sauce (or "broth") was creamy with mascarpone, the sepia offered almost no resistance when chewed.
A new dish, the sweetbread "roulade" (whose description hasn't made it onto the posted online menu, yet, unfortunately), came bacon-wrapped with browned cauliflower florets, cippolini onions, tatsoi and capers on the side. It was texturally similar to bacon-wrapped scallops, with sweetbreads in place of scallops. The attractively browned sweetbreads were mild in flavor and so tender they were in danger of falling apart. Cippolini onions and cauliflower were caramelized and so good I would've ordered a bowl of these had they been on the menu.
I'm not sure why I'm never really wowed by the desserts at Recette. It's possible that if I were to encounter them elsewhere, I'd be more interested. But after the succession of stellar savory plates and perhaps because my palate leans savory rather than sweet, maybe it just takes more to make an impression. Whatever the case, I did find the rhubarb "baba" with rhubarb soup, strawberry ginger ice cream, poppy seed maple brioche and pistachios visually lovely. Rhubarb soup matched the exact shade of the pinkish candied ginger garnish on the brioche. Flavor-wise, I thought the dish was enjoyable, but not something I'd go out of my way for. My favorite component was the vividly flavored strawberry ginger ice cream, which I liked well enough to spar with Justin's spoon for.
For those of you interested in such things, here is a photo of the bread, served warm with a ramekin of good butter. The bread had a good, sturdy crust and the large crumbed roll was chewy and glutinous.
Overall, a brilliant meal as usual. We didn't go with our Little One, but at our early reservation time, I do think we could've gotten away with bringing him.
Food Rating: A+
Please follow the links to see Girl Eats City's October 5, 2010, December 1, 2010, December 31, 2010, and October 10, 2011 reviews.
328 West 12th Street
New York, NY 10014 (at the corner of Greenwich Street)
212 414 3000