Saxon + Parole
(between Bleecker St & 1st St)
New York, NY 10012
“New American.” What does that even mean? When I think New American, I think of foods like mashed potatoes with truffle oil and roasted turkey with kumquat cranberry sauce (which Saxon + Parole actually had on their Thanksgiving menu). Wikipedia has a great definition:
New American cuisine is a term for upscale, contemporary cooking served primarily in restaurants in the United States. Combining flavors from America’s melting pot with traditional techniques, New American cuisine includes ethnic twists on old standbys, Old World peasant dishes made from luxury American ingredients and molecular gastronomy.
Old World peasant dishes made from luxury ingredients with a little spherification here and there. Sounds about right. As you can probably tell, I’m not the biggest fan of New American. I’m always down for a new take on a traditional food (see Mission Chinese) but when stuff is added just for the sake of making it seem more upscale, it gets lame. Anyway, not saying Saxon + Parole is lame at all, because it was actually pretty good. I just had a bad feeling about the place when I walked in and saw the stable-esque decor, minus the smell of horses. It’s where bobos (bourgeois bohemian) like to put on their birkenstocks and sip on their free trade coffee bean espresso after a decadent but “humble” meal.
I digress. A.W. and K.L. were in town visiting from little ol’ Seattle and Boston. They requested something “New York” and when Peter Luger’s said we could only eat at 11pm, we scaled back our expectations and went to trendy-hip-New-American Saxon + Parole.
We started with little warm puffs of bread with two kinds of butter, one with large crystals of salt and another infused with whiskey. Saxon + Parole definitely gets brownie points for serving warm bread.
For appetizers, we started with one of their famous pots: Portobello Mushroom Mousse ($10) with whiskey jelly and toasted bread. 80% of the reviews I read about this place raved about their mushroom mousse. Other than the fact that the portion was a quite a bit smaller than expected and that the “pot” looked like a mini terrarium, the mousse was damn good. It was smooth and light with a very potent shroomy flavor. The whiskey jelly was sweeter than expected but served as a nice flavor enhancer to the mousse. A.W. thought it was too sweet and if it wasn’t meant to be an appetizer, where we each only got a bite or two, I would agree. But because it was bite sized, the sweetness was bearable and whet my appetite (or just made me hungry for something more savory).
We also had the Brussels sprout leaves with poached egg, toasted hazelnuts, pancetta, and truffle-yuzu hollandaise ($13). The brussels sprouts were leafy and tender, which tasted great with the crunch from the toasted hazelnuts and the crisp from the pancetta. Poached egg provided a creaminess that I had never experienced with brussels sprouts. I tend to like my sprouts on the crispy and slightly burnt side, but this take was also delicious. A little bit of garlic, a little smokiness from the pancetta…flavors reminded me of Chinese cooking.
A.W. got the Moroccan braised lamb shank with cheesy grits and preserved lemon gremolata ($32). The lamb was suuuuper fall-off-the-bone tender and very flavorful. And by flavorful, I mean that it tasted like a lamb grazing in fresh pastures. The bold tomatoey paste with slight Asian influenecs could not even mask the lambiness of the dish. It turns out that the chef, Brad Farmerie, had helped open up Double Crown and Madam Geneva, which cooks up a cuisine from when the British colonized countries in South Asia and the Far East. Made sense that the brussels sprouts and lamb both tasted like hints of Chinese food. Anyway, if you like lamb, I think you’ll love this dish. If you don’t, stay away.
Everyone else ordered the burger ($18), which is actually called “The Burger” on the menu. It’s made with dry aged Angus burger with Pennsylvania Havarti, maple bacon, a fried egg and fries. I haven’t had a gourmet non-fast food burger in a while so was hoping to be blown away by how simple food, when made with great ingredients, can totally be worth $18. Aaaaand… I was not impressed. Bun was dry. Meat was dense. Pennsylvania Havarti tasted like normal deli havarti. Maple bacon was thick and on the tougher side, which made it difficult to bite. Fried egg was very watery. After every non-Shake Shack burger I have, I am convinced even more that Shake Shack has the best burger in the world. This remains the case.
The fries on the other hand were phenomenal! They were perfectly crisp on the outside and had just enough skin on each fry to give a little texture. It came with sriracha ketchup, which was aaamazing. I always add tobasco to my ketchup but have never thought to add sriracha. It really is a winning combo. The five of us who got burgers all got our own fry stand, which by itself contained had enough fries to feed a table.
We are all hardcore brussels sprouts fans so in addition to the appetizer, we also got two more orders of BS sides. These sprouts were more to my liking: suuuper crispy on the outside burnt just enough to have that smokey charred flavor without tasting overwhelmingly like carcinogens. It also had a sweet chili caramlized glaze that tasted like that sweet garlic sauce that typically comes with spring rolls. Mm mm mmmmm.
Saxon + Parole is definitely one of the better New American restaurants out there. The next time I come, I’m going to stick with cocktails (which I didn’t get this time but hear are great) and appetizers. The entrees are just medicore and overpriced – a terrible combo. Then again, “cocktails and appetizers” sounds just like something a bobo would do. Ugh, there is no escaping the bobo at these restaurants.