Monday, July 18, 2011


People always say it is easier to criticize a place than applaud it.  I differ in that I think it's easier to comment when you're definitively for or against... it's the non-commital grey-area ones that are more of a struggle to write up.  And so it is at Lyon.  It isn't all bad, it isn't all great.  It just sort of is.

There are myriad joints that follow the standard French bisto-decor schema, and here they do it pretty well, despite the bouchon nomenclature that tries to differentiate itself from the others. The room is frenchified with aged blonde wood and paper-covered tables, plenty of affiches francaises and (that French standard) scribbled-on mirrors that reflect a jarring abundance of exit signs (apparently the French need a lot of direction?). Thing is, the room is more transporting than the food.

We started off with a signature Salad du Bouchon, a perfectly respectable beet and haricots verts salad, novel with a lush horseradish dressing over golden and ruby beets.  Unfortunately, this was the best dish all night.  The much lauded truffle-infused hotdog was a very lean, too smooth (almost bologna-like) wiener which wasn't pronouncedly truffly.  The chewy pretzel bun was tasty, though, and the sauerkraut and pungent, stinky mustard below were some of the best I've ever had.  Ditch the dog and enjoy the pretzel and kraut, or else grab it and a nice cold beer, and don't expect anything more from it.  A nice, juicy sausage would've stood in more honorably.

Quality-wise, entrees followed the dog.  Skate was a little more fried than it needed to be, ending up a chewy and a tad greasy. This could have been more easily overlooked had it not arrived swathed by three reclining anchovies, brilliantly silver and skanky as all get out. I'm not a huge anchovy fan, and for three interlopers to appear unannounced as the menu gave no warning was nothing but criminal.  (A straight-out lambaste!  There now, wasn't that easy?)  It left two bad tastes in my mouth: the taste, literally, but also the misinformation. But even as the offenders themselves were carefully removed and disposed of by an understanding waitress, their memory remained. To boot, the accompanying couscous and favas tasted a bit sour... as in rancid, not from the scant capers dispersed throughout. So too was the side of poached asparagus: woody spears past their prime that the light slick of butter couldn't even begin to mask.

A roast chicken, however, was pretty spot-on. The flesh was juicy and tender, almost as if it had been stewed rather than roasted, but the skin remained firm but pliant. A lovely array of scallions, turnips, kale and fennel absorbed some of the rich broth and green garlic jus, and I wished I had that pretzel roll back to soak up the rest. At this point,  though, dessert seemed moot.   While  the menu offered some traditional stalwarts and innovative riffs upon them, nothing looked unmissable. Not like those prolific exit signs, which will finally be appreciated as soon as you can get your check.

118 Greenwich Ave Tel: 212 242 5966

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