Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vongerichten's Bargain Basement Lunch

This should be on every one's to-do list. 29.00 for two courses (which is an ample lunch... they don't skimp out on the portions), but give up another 14.50 for an extra course and this may be the most decadently cheap splurge ever. We began with the house amuse-bouches: a warm squash soup with lime zest oil (slurpable!), hamachi crudo with a celery remoulade (which masterfully accomplished the cool/crispy/creamy trifecta), and a happy little multi-grain toast with a smear of grainy mustard and a breakfast radish dusted with fleur du sel. The menu has a dish for any one's palate... I adored my warm asparagus salad: five thick spears atop of mix of leaves, an amped up hollandaise and little slivers of mushroom. Really wonderful, and generous. There's a skate dish in a sauce Chateau Chalon (a mustardy yellow champagne sauce that is soup-worthy), for which they unexpectedly subbed out with turbot. Had it been my dish, I'd be admittedly miffed (skate is my favorite) but since it was my companions, and he was actually happier, I'll let it slide. My shrimp with mousseron were the least appreciated, perhaps, but would make a solid app. The problem with it as multi-faceted, the first of which it seemed too skimpy for a main, but moreover, the mushroom crust was non-committal: neither buttery-crust crumby enough, nor mushroomy. A bit like some random passed appetizer at an open-bar cocktail party (although if it was that, it would've been nice enough). And to be perfectly honest (see? there I go) the shrimp were a bit.... shrimpy A second course of snapper with a buttery, umami-rich sauce (there we go with the sauces again... make sure to use the spoon), heavy with cipollini, grape tomatoes and fingerlings had a lovely, peppery, nutty crust (although slightly sogged by the steam) which gave it such a pleasantly multi-layered flavor profile.
The desserts, room or no room, cannot be skipped. Rhubarb (a top ten list favorite of mine along with that skate) finds itself nestled underneath a gorgeous custard in a buttery crust, whipped into a sweet-tart foam flecked with tiny candied bits, and paired with it's favorite partner in crime, the strawberry, in a thick and cool melba-inspired soup. The vanilla ice cream that comes with the molten chocolate cake should be sold in bulk- it's that good. And if only for the surprise in the almond
galette beneath the kumquat-topped matcha semifreddo, I hasten to mention it as well. (And if you like green tea, the texture of that semifreddo is intrinsically a green tea-gasm).
Really, there wasn't a misstep in the house.
Oh, wait. Yes, there was. The restroom have the WORST possible system of hot and cold faucets... perfectly akin to those you find in the worst of airplane lavatories. You can never get the right balance of hot and cold, and end up freezing your fingers or scalding them off. Which is the absolute opposite, most thankfully, of what happens on the plate under Jean-George's watchful eye. Who was, in fact, present that very evening. Who says you'll never find the toque in the house?

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