282 Bowery (and Houston)
New York, NY 10012
It has been ages, my friends. AGES. I feel awfully guilty for abandoning this blog for so long. I can give you the usual excuses of life getting in the way but it won’t make me feel any less guilty. The reason I’ve carved out some of my Sunday afternoon to write to you all is because quite a few of you have recentlyl told me that you MISS my blog posts and actually NOTICED that I haven’t posted in a while. I’m soooooo incredibly flattered and… just… wow, people read my blog consistently enough to be able to tell I’ve been MIA? M.L. told me today I am her sad-desk-lunch reading and it empowered me to get off my lazy bum and finally just start writing again so M.L. can resume reading about food while she eats food.
So here it is! My first post since… ALMOST A MONTH AGO (ugh). The post is about Cherche Midi, a Keith McNally restaurant that opened sometime last year. McNally is a big NYC restauranteur who opened Balthazar and Minetta Tavern (among many others). There are a few deviations from the “typical French” restaurant with some yuzu and shiso on the menu, but otherwise Cherche Midi is a pretty typical French establishment, with steak tartare, steak frites, and lots of butter in and on everything.
First, the bread. Very important. Bread is the first thing you get to eat at a restaurant so in my mind it should give you a hint of the identity of the restaurant In Cherche Midi’s case, it certainly did.
The bread was traditionally French (baguettes!) served with amazing butter. The baguettes had a perfectly crusty crust and a great spring to it (when you squeeze, it bounces back). Center was chewy, stretchy, and soft-but-not-too-soft. Promising.
We shared the Frogs’ Legs with green garlic velouté, garlic chips, and crisp parsley ($19 – expensive). Despite how fancy it sounds, it tasted pretty un-fancy. The legs were fried well, and were very tender. Sauce was creamy and had a hint of garlic. Nothing to write home about.
We also shared the Homemade Lobster Ravioli in ginger beurre blanc (aka. ginger butter sauce) with piquillo peppers ($28), which ended up being my favorite dish from the night. Amazingly fresh, sweet lobster (large chunks of it too) coated in a buttery sauce with little sweet peppers and what I think is definitely LEMONGRASS. Oh man was this tasty. I was happy to see Cherche Midi deviating from a traditional French-only menu. The ravioli skin also had a great bite to it.
We then shared the Pan-Roasted Foie Gras with green apple and homemade brioche ($27). Also amazing. The foie gras had a really nice seared crust, which gave a great crisp to every bite. It wasn’t too livery tasting and was a bit naturally sweet. So much umami. The sliced green apples were tart and crisp, the perfect pairing with the creamy foie gras. The baby brioche on the side was a tad overly buttered, but I guess that’s why they only give you so little of it. This heavy dish needed extra baguette on the side for me to enjoy. And enjoy I did.
For my entrée, I ordered the Crispy Suckling Pig with braised Easter Egg radish and salsa verde ($22). Disappointing. Very disappointing. 1) I realize I don’t like cube-shaped meats. It doesn’t look appetizing to me. Too neat. Too engineered. Too squished. The suckling pig was densely packed into this cube form and lacked any other flavor other than essence of pig. The skin was nicely crisp but other than that, didn’t do much for me. Greens were lame. Overall actually quite bland yet heavy at the same time…
E.C. got the special, which was this lobster. Didn’t try it but I think it was just fine. I tried some of the veggies on the side and they were just very bland, boring veggies. Given how amazing the ravioli was, I imagine the lobster was at least great.
Both LAW and H.W. got the Prime Rib Burger with bacon marmalade, roasted mushrooms, aged Gruyère cheese, and pomme frites ($24). The burger is supposed to be one of their bestsellers. It’s good, if you like REALLY heavy burgers. The sesame bun is buttery (though I did appreciate the sesame bun… everyone seems to be doing potato these days and I’m getting a little sick of it L). The patty was thick, juicy, salty, buttery (again), and covered in melted cheese. I couldn’t really taste the bacon marmalade but imagine it was what made the whole thing so damn salty. Wouldn’t make my top 10 list of burgers but I guess it’s decent if you like that kind of thing.
We shared a side of the Roasted Cauliflower with sauce gribiche (aka a mayo-egg sauce) ($10), which I also read is popular. Sadly, also not my cup of tea. An entire half ish of a cauliflower is roasted, with little salt, and then served with this eggy, creamy sauce on top. Because the cauliflower is essentialy roasted in the whole, it was still pretty raw/hard. I like my cauliflower roasted in little bites, so every bite has a crisp top and soft bottom. Roasting it this way usually tends to bring out the sweetness in cauliflower too. But this, sad, big hunk o’ cauliflower lacked all of that.
Finally, for dessert, we shared a Lemon Tart with Sherbert ($10) which was decent. I liked the lemon tart. Good tart and filling. Great cream on top. Sherbert was a weird pairing because it was icy and very tart, which was not what I wanted after a bite of very tart lemon tart.
In conclusion, I probably wouldn’t come back on my own will but would be open to going if friends have plans to eat there. I would eat lots of the bread with foie gras and order the lobster ravioli as my main. I would be very happy doing that.