Sunday, June 27, 2010


West Village's Recette has been on my list of places to visit since the Times gave the small plates place such a glowing review last March. I finally had the chance to visit on Friday night and tried to adhere pretty closely to Sifton's recommended dishes. Overall, I was really impressed with this place. Even better, it wasn't terribly crowded and we didn't feel rushed to leave. It was a nice place to sip wine, enjoy each plate and relax into the night.

I started with the recommended glass of Gruner Veltliner, which later turned into two glasses. I'm normally a red drinker, but on hot nights like Friday I needed something a little more refreshing. I prefer my whites to taste just like this -- more dry than sweet (no mineral whites), refreshing, with enough character to help liven up the meal.

We started with the assorted charcuterie plate, which was not as nearly as amazing as Marlow & Sons' but pretty decent anyway, if only because the foie gras terrine was sublime.(From left) we had the salty Jamon de Bayonne, the silky, decadent foie gras terrine, the tasty but unremarkable cacciatore, and Tete de Cochon. The gelatin combined with the soft meat reminded me a lot of a very thin pot roast, but maybe my palette isn't refined enough for head cheese yet. They were served with sweetly pickled vegetables and a zesty mustard.

We were served the salt cod fritters at the same time as the charcuterie: a tiny pot of three croquettes nestled atop a spicy lamb ragu sauce. Sifton was right when he called it a "head scratchingly good combination." The saltiness of the dish was perfect; the meaty sauce gave the soft fried fish some depth with the fatty flavor. A curried aioli was drizzled on top, rounding everything off with some color and acidity.

Another strange but wonderful combination: the heirloom tomato salad, basically a caprese with peekytoe crab. The tomato, ripe and perfect, was coated in a basil vinaigrette, with decorative basil seeds making tiny flowers on the plate. The crab meat was perfect and tender, but the real treat was below that, a fresh burrata cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The soft texture mimicked that of the crab: a tiny bit stringy, but soft and delicate on the tongue, a perfect counterbalance to the heirloom.

Strangely, it seems that the plates with the more obvious sounding combinations are not as amazing. Chilled pea soup with foie gras and sea urchin is a great example. The thickish soup wasn't created with nearly as much tender love and care as the others, the hardened foie gras thrown in almost as an afterthought, the small amount of uni not adding much either. In the end it was overly salty; it could have used some dill or other livening herb (for a mind blowing pea soup, head to Nougatine).

As far as we experienced, the soup was the only real misstep. The halibut was among my favorites: a tender, buttery, perfectly flaking fish was the focus of what looked very much like a painting: fish meets forest, in watercolor. The mildness of the fish lent it perfectly to its assembly of vegetal and fungal accompaniments: a few morel mushrooms, artichokes and asparagus; bright dipping pools of Saffron Beurre Blanc.

The pork belly was a good way to end the parade of small plates. The sherry caramel fired the pork into meat candy territory. The belly was topped with a turnips and an amazing, crispy fried piece of rock shrimp; a tomato-y romesco sauce served on the side. This dish was definitely too big for me, the fat and the sweet caramel got tired after a few bites. But I can never resist trying new ways to eat pork belly and I'm glad I gave the shrimp-tomato-caramel combo a spin.

Of course we had to finish with dessert: pastry chef Christina Lee, a Per Se alum, created her own version of s'mores with graham cracker ice cream, toasted marshmallow cream and a spicy cayenne chocolate sauce. The dessert was beautiful to look at, but the cayenne overpowered the subtle graham cracker flavor of the ice cream. It's too bad, because I really do love spicy chocolate, but I also want to appreciate the quieter, more complex flavors. I think this is why I've always preferred vanilla ice cream to chocolate. But I digress. Recette is fantastic, and I hope to come back for the cheese spread, the tuna crudo, and more of that heirloom tomato salad.

328 W. 12st St (at Greenwich St)

No comments: