Sunday, June 6, 2010


I loved Jarnac. It was just on the outskirts of the MPD, so if you were unfortunately caught thereabouts, you could still find marvelous sustenance just to the south, and not have to waste your money and appetite on the chi-chi, trendy, sceney restaurants of the 'hood. But when it suffered the fate as have so many places recently, I was poignantly curious about its latest reincarnation. Jesse Schenker took the helm, and thus was born Recette.
The room has stayed fairly true to form; perhaps the curtains are a bit whiter and the floors tinted a bit deeper, but it's a small space with not too much room for extravagances. So Schenker focuses that attention on the plate, instead. According to his wife, Hannah, there has been some local to-do about the un-Jarnac-ness of the restaurant, which served very generous portions at an unexpectedly moderate price. Recette's menu is apparently more small-plate based, but without disclosure of such, and with prices comparable to those of its predecessor, one might (easily) assume that these are normal appetizer/entree sized offerings. Now, I am no Josh Ozersky, so for me to leave a restaurant hungry is notable, but honestly, I can't really argue against the neighborhooders on this. In order to get fed, the bill will approach proportions much more substantial than any single dish. But I cannot unearth a single issue with any of dishes themselves, who's recipes (recettes) are creative and immaculately executed. It really bring a new brilliance to the West Village.

Early June allows for the onslaught of tomato season, and an exquisite salad of heirlooms with peektoe and burrata did all components justice. It was slicked with a slightly gelatinous glaze of mild citrus and basil seeds, which made for an absolutely stunning dish visually and no less so in flavor.
Lobster risotto was atypically loose, rather than the thicker, gummier porridges more commonly found. But the rice was perfectly cooked, and the brothiness of the summer-truffle inflected sauce provided dipping-fodder for the chewy bread, thus
making a slightly skimpy portion much more fulfilling. Maybe there was a little lemon, certainly some butter for nuttiness, but mostly sumptuous chunks of lobster and heady truffle... a fantastic dish.
So too was the roasted halibut with Spring's trifecta: asparagus, artichokes and morels. Two chunks of the most excellent

heart of the choke, three skinny asparagus tips, a smattering of sliced morels abutting a nugget of snowy fish atop a truffly dollop of foam, I cannot find a fault with this dish. Except that it was gone in four bites. Fortunately for my vegephilia, we ordered also a charming little cocotte the season's best, which wasn't mind-altering but was a welcome addition simply in terms of heft.
Perhaps some of this precious sizing has to do with the heritage of the pastry chef, Christina Tosi (who fledges from Per Se). Or at least she is a very apt fit. A dessert of passionfruit torte was literally the size of half an Oreo. While profoundly good, it was almost too scant to muster up a spoonful of the tantalizing raspberry sorbet, creamy passionfruit custard, tiny, lightly chewy chunks of pineapple and a bite of the nutty disc of crust at once unless you consumed the whole affair in a single mouthful (which with a proper utensil would have been entirely possible).
Now, if you know (and now you do!) to order accordingly, you can have a boast-worthy, memorable experience here. Just think of it along the lines of Per Se, and while you'll be in charge of creating your own run-of-show, the comparative price tag will let you make out like a bandit.

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