Cookie Monster and I heard and read many great things about this French restaurant that opened in Hell’s Kitchen named La Silhouette. Apparently two former Le Bernadin managers and a Chef David Malbequi, formerly of the Standard Hotel, BLT Market and Daniel, opened this place up to provide some delicious Franco-American fare to the heavily Thai saturated Hell’s Kitchen. Friday night we stopped in for dinner.
The restaurant is set up somewhat strange – it’s railroad style. First you walk through a very small bar/hostess area, then there is a windowless middle dining room and finally there is a larger back dining space with a very large and overwhelming red and white striped wall. (I felt like I was dining in an American bar heavily inspired by patriotic colors)
First off, I have to say the service was strange and so was the sequence that followed. It felt harried even though we were one of two couples in the room and a larger table of diners. The bread came way after our first taste of wine. And just as we were chewing on our first nibbles of bread and butter, the amuse bouche arrived. The rest of the meal came too quickly – one after the other – barely giving us time to relax and enjoy our wine in between courses.
The amuse bouche was a chilled tomato consume with radish and fried shallots and a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Quite tasty and refreshing – very clean simple flavors.
For appetizer, I opted to go with a simple salad of proscuitto, arugula, fried zucchini blossoms, fresh figs and pine nuts:
Overall a salad is a salad and not too hard to mess up – the arugula was fresh and the figs were sweet and delicious but a couple criticisms here. The proscuitto could have been sliced thinner. It was sliced a tad too thick rendering the cured meat a bit chewy and difficult to cut with fork and knife. The zucchini blossoms should have been dipped in some batter in the traditional preparation to allow the light as air zucchini blossoms to shine through. Because the blossoms were not battered before being fried – the petals literally soaked up ALL the oil and when you bit down into them, they tasted very greasy and not too appetizing. Plus I believe the oil burnt them a bit. Had the zucchini blossoms been prepared in a batter, I think it would have preserved this delicate flower and lent a lighter than air flavor I think could have really elevated this plate.
Cookie Monster got the poached farm egg with grilled asparagus and oyster mushroom in a truffle vinaigrette:
The yolk of the egg combined with the truffle oil created a lovely gravy of sorts. This was done well – it enhanced the meaty mushrooms while providing a nice crunch from the asparagus. Simple and delicious.
For main course, I figured since the chef came from Boulud and BLT Market – the proteins would be done well. I ordered the beef sirloin medium rare with “gateau pommes de terre” and roasted shallots in a cognac sauce.
Meat was perfectly cooked the way I like it and the outside had a nice carmelized char to it. The one issue I had was the cut of meat I got was very gristly. Several bites were tough to chew. Also one portion (not visible) was HEAVILY laced with fat on one side – which should have been trimmed off. I had a difficult time cutting off the fat to get to the remaining piece of meat. The potatoes were delicious and I did enjoy the cognac sauce. Too bad the meat wasn’t up to par.
Cookie Monster ordered the duck breast with Tuscan kale, red wine risotto “aumoniere” and star anise spiced cherries:
Duck was very tender and cooked medium – skin was nicely crisped. I wasn’t terribly fond of it but Cookie Monster loved the kale with red wine risotto. I agree that the preparation was unique and unlike anything we’ve had but I found the kale too bitter for me paired with the risotto. I don’t like fruit in my savory so the cherries were not my friend.
We got two desserts. The chocolate mille crepes with banana creme, candied walnuts and banana rum ice cream:
Yummy! Very banana-y. The thousand layers (what “mille” means) of the crepes combined to create this cake like thing was soft and delicious. It’s not super sweet so I was quite fond of this dessert.
I was in the mood for custard so I got the earl grey creme brulee with pistachio crunch and topped by a lemon lime sorbet:
Break the hard sugary glass on top and reveal a delicious custard. I liked the nutty crunchiness of the pistachios. The most surprising element was the lemon-lime sorbet – when combined with the creme brulee, it transformed the custard to something interesting: brighter and lighter…it was good. Plus side: this dessert is big enough for two.
The restaurant then served us petite fours:
I’m not quite sure how I feel about La Silhouette to be honest. The reviews I read prior to actually dining here were for a completely different menu (this restaurant is seasonal and the menu changes depending). I know that I did choose relatively “safe” items but even those items could have been better. The proscuitto and preparation of the zucchini blossoms in my salad and the quality of filet I received were both lacking. Cookie Monster seemed to have fared better. Nothing really jumped out to me on the menu as something I hadn’t had before or so interesting/unique that I am eager to go back. I do have to give a shout out to the pastry chef – I do believe the desserts were the highlight of this meal for me.
I think the meal itself was good but nothing extraordinary I’m afraid. I did have high hopes. Perhaps it was an off night for the kitchen but for the high prices they charge, it’s not likely that I’ll go back anytime soon. If you happen to try this restaurant and have a totally different experience, let me know and I’ll be more likely to pay a repeat visit and give it another chance.
UPDATE: Chef David Malbequi is leaving. See full article here on eater.com
La Silhouette, 362 West 53rd Street, New York, NY