Before Montreal and the rest of the travel craziness happened, I got the chance to check out an annual event I always seem to forget until it is almost too late. Restaurant Week happens twice a year in the city of cities, once in the summer and once in the winter, but for some reason it is not as strongly advertised or billboarded as it should be, especially for someone as event-ignorant as me. Luckily, my co-worker once again managed to remind me during the last week it was hosted. I had the chance to still reserve a table at one of New York’s participating restaurants before the fun was over. It was a tough race between a classy French restaurant and an adventurous Italian joint, but in the end the classy French spot won. So on Thursday night I was on my way to Chelsea to taste the fine selection of La Promenade des Anglais.
Together with my partner in crime we entered through the chique doors and stood in front of two obviously gay hosts. “‘Tis Chelsea after all,” I thought, while we were led to our tables in the center of the place. La Promenade is a very dark place with sophisticated tables and servers who display only their best manners. Think waiters who have a napkin underneath the water bottle when they refill your glass. Imagine having just emptied your plate and the next moment it is magically cleared from the table without you having barely winked. Yes, impeccable table manners!
Their special involved three to four options in each course.
As an appetizer, I opted for the shrimp ceviche, served with cucumber and ginger mingled in a citrus marinade.
My partner chose the Gazapacho, a cold soup Spanish-style, here served with Ricotta cheese and extra virgin oil. Why we found a Spanish dish among a French cuisine still puzzles us to date but then the main course was not too typical for France either. While the Gazapacho was well-received and tasty, I had troubles digesting the cold shrimp in an even colder marinade. To me, the taste was not enhanced by the temperature of the food and I would have found it better off for the dish to be served warm.
The next round brought the main course:
A Branzino Filet with basil mashed potatoes, served with Nicoise olives and marinated tomatoes.
I believe I saw an entire olive chopped into three tiny pieces on that plate. The fish was good, albeit too small in size, and the mashed potatoes were a hit, even for a mashed-potato hater like me.
My partner ordered the Risotto dish with zucchini, goat cheese and “Meyer”lemon (explaining that fancy term later). While it was much tastier than my plate I wouldn’t have wanted to trade with him because the portion looked like a baby had just spat it out. A mushed pulp of rice so hideous, I didn’t even want to take a picture of it!
Finally, the highlight of the meal, once again the dessert:
Warm chocolate fondant with whipped cream for me. Greek yogurt served as Panna Cotta with roasted peaches and crumbles for him. And here I was really indulging in the good tastes of the French Cuisine. Warm chocolate frosting surrounded by a tender crust, dipped into cream and cherry sauce. Fantastic! After the initial sugar rush, though, we started applying our brain cells and came to the conclusion that this dessert is highly worth praising but not enough to convince us of the restaurant itself.
While the service was indeed impeccable, I cannot say the same about the food. There is not much reason for me to come back but the dessert and I believe that won’t be a reason enough to return. I also had the feeling that the restaurant was verbally enhancing its food by inventing fancy phrases to put on the menu (Meyer lemon? Seriously?! Who cares if your lemon is from China and a cross between two different citrus fruits!) to simply lure people into trying some of their high class dishes.
But hey, that’s why restaurant week is awesome: To introduce you to some restaurants you would have never gone to without the special and to see how your taste buds can digest what is brought to your plate! Chin Chin to that!
[To see a more satisfactory Restaurant Week post, go to last year and Bar Basque!]