Guest Blogger: Cookie Monster
It’s Thursday evening and I’m running late from work to meet Page 6 for my third dinner of the week. Having just (luckily) missed a flash thunderstorm that seemed to soak and surprise every NYorker during my subway ride down to the West Village, I was looking forward to an entertaining and unique meal at a place that Page 6 has been dying to try. She tells me she had always walked by this neighborhood space when it was Jarnac and said I’m going to go in there one day but in true NYC style, without having ever tried it, POOF it was gone and in its place was Recette. A bright, airy and quaint West Village eatery that was minimally decorated with two tones of olive green on the walls separated with a dark wood shelf, dark walnut tables with no tablecloths, clean and modern – almost stark. We actually joked that the place was stripped down so much that the air conditioning vent was left wide open, almost making it feel like a meat locker in there. But I digress, it’s the perfect neighborhood spot to grab a quick meal at the bar by one’s self and strike up a conversation with a fellow patron or the friendly staff. We were seated right away as it was a bit on the early side so the dining room was about 25% full but the two walls of windows allowed us to enjoy the fleeting light of the sunny day left by the thunderstorms.
After having perused through the menu and noticed that there were too many tempting things to choose from, I knew this was going to be a challenging venture. The concept is modern urban dining where guests get to “choose your own adventure” of sorts based on your preference for that evening. There is a sophisticated yet playful selection of small snacks, small plates, and charcuterie and cheese choices. There are also two tasting options, a five course and a seven course menu which both come with an amuse bouche and palette cleansing sorbet before dessert.
After having tried to order a couple of French chardonnays, which they were out of stock on, we settled on a bottle of a fruit forward 2008 Sancerre from Pascal Jolivet. We were not in the mood to narrow down the choices on the menu and being that our hunger level was at starvation, we went the most adventurous route and chose the seven-course tasting menu. The wine ended up pairing very nicely with the meal as the strength of the fruit complimented the refined, bold flavors of every dish and allowed the diner to enjoy the lingering flavors of every course prior to the next one.
The seven courses were brilliantly presented in a nice progression from fish snack to fish plate to meat snack to meat plate and finally onto dessert.
Amuse Bouche: Uni Himachi with blood orange and jalapeno
This was a chunky blend of freshly diced Himachi and smooth, briny Uni (which I normally do not favor but here it was more of a support act than the main event) and minced jalapeno which lended the spicy kick the spoonful needed to take it to the next level. Page 6 said it offered enough pop for her and was nicely offset with a cooling and light almond cream to the side.
Course 1: Heirloom Tomato Salad, Peekytoe Crab, Burrata, Basil Vinaigrette
I always look forward to summer when tomatoes are at their freshest. Firm, juicy and bursting with tomato goodness. (Brings back fond memories of my trip to Italy where I think it may actually be illegal to serve up bad tomatoes.) In any event, these were the freshest tomatoes of the season I have had yet – juicy, sweet and flavorful. The compliment to the creamy, dense burrata and basil vinaigrette was something I have had before but was well executed and a nice reminder that summer is here. I thought that the peekytoe crab was almost an afterthought and I wasn’t sure what it was doing on the plate (not that I didn’t finish it of couse). After having been to ABC Kitchen, I found the execution of the peekytoe in harmony with its other farm fresh ingredients sitting atop a crunchy piece of bruschetta was much better.
Course 2: Tuna Crudo, Fennel, Mussel Vinaigrette, Caramelized Orange, Caviar
This dish had a classic combo of fennel and orange and was beautifully executed with the tuna crudo and briny taste and dotty texture of the caviar. The inclusion of the chunky mussel vinaigrette was overly fishy and tad bit overpowering for my taste but I can see how some diners may enjoy the extra layer of complexity. Page 6 agreed that she could have done without the addition of the mussels in the dish. (But once again – that didn’t stop us from finishing it all – you can start to spot a trend here!)
Course 3: Halibut, Morel Mushroom, Artichokes, Asparagus, Saffron Beurre Blanc
Wow! And then silence from both of us here … this was simply heaven on a plate. Everything here lived in succulent harmony. All of the flavors here were symphonically complex – a piece of Mozart on a plate. The moist, flaky thick white fish with a light crispy crust danced across my tongue as the salty, chewy morels and crunchy asparagus happily fulfilled their textural and flavorful duties. But wait, a symphony cannot be performed to perfection without an exuberant conductor – here that was a beautifully, decadent saffrom beure blanc.
Course 4: Lobster Risotto, Porcini Mushroom, Lobster Emulsion, Summer Truffle
Here was a dish that echoed luxury. (Beware they will ask for an extra $18 to the cost of your tasting menu for this dish as we special requested it – but c’mon its lobster and white truffle and butter – it was well worth it after a treacherously long week of work.) Overall, the dish was rich and indulging – a harmonious marriage of truffles and lobster. We didn’t want to stop eating it. My one complaint was that the risotto may have been a little too al dente – the bite was firm and nearly grainy, almost undercooked.
Course 5: “Buffalo” Sweetbreads, Pickled Celery, Valdeón Dip
It is clear this chef has a sense of humor, personality and a love for the simplicity of the comfort of spicy buffalo wings, tangy ranch sauce and celery sticks on American football Sundays. This dish was basically that tradition with the volume turned up a hundred fold. (Sweetbreads – it tastes like rich KFC as the HK would attest.) This dish was playful and creative, and is a must have if you are a buffalo wing fan. There was the spice you expect from buffalo sauce, the rich meaty flavor from the sweetbreads, the cool, tangy taste from the valdeon dip but an unexpected sourness from the pickled celery and carrots (pickled is my kryptonite unfortunately much like the HK’s is cilantro).
Course 6: Berkshire Pork Belly, Rock Shrimp, Turnips, Romesco, Sherry Caramel .
There was a little bit of randomness on the plate here, which was unexpected, as most everything else had been done with creativity and thoughtfulness of concept, flavor and texture. I thought the pork belly was salty and fatty as it should be and married well with the sweet, savory sherry caramel. The romesco sauce came across as a bitter tomato paste and I didn’t really use it with much on the plate. The rock shrimp tempura was well cooked and tender but I didn’t completely grasp how it was supposed to pair with anything on the plate.
Palette cleanser: Ginger Mango Sorbet with crumbled graham cracker
After having several glasses of wine, our initial thought when this dish came to the table was – this CAN’T be dessert! It was so small! This little bite could not be the end of this amazing meal! We forgot that this was just a refreshing palette cleanser that came with the tasting menu. Crisis averted!! This was a perfectly fruity, spicy cold refreshing burst in your mouth with a sweet, light and crumbly graham cracker for texture.
Course 7: “Smores,” Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Toasted Marshmallow, “Hot” Chocolate Sauce
Pastry Chef Christina Lee – Bravo!! Bravo!! Bravo!! For taking a classic summer treat that brings us all back to comforting memories of childhood, turning it up several notches and making it an adult dessert that invokes new comforting memories, I applaud you. The artistry and presentation on the plate was bar none and the deconstruction of all the components of a Smore with a spike of cayenne pepper was truly amazing. Seconds please!
Chef Jesse Schenker has created in Recette, every chef’s dream. A West Village location with sophisticated, creative and appreciative clientele in a small, manageable space where the outlets for creativity with your passion in life (food) are endless. I wish you well in this adventure and will be back to sample more of your imaginative, tasty creations!
UPDATE: for Hungry Korean’s review of Recette, click here.
Recette, 328 West 12th Street, New York, NY