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October 29th, 2008 · No Comments


Violet drapes, pulled back in dramatic fashion, mark the entrance to Picholine’s main dining room. On the other side of these amethyst gates, wall sconces and chandeliers illuminate a soothing palate of mauve and white. The effect is more staid than elegant.

No less than four servers stood guard as the six of us took our seats in the quiet restaurant. The stage was set for a typical evening of uptown fine dining and it played out in my head as I lay the white linen napkin across my lap. Act One would include excellent but stuffy service. Act Two would highlight solidly prepared food with muted attempts at flair. A few hours, a few amuse bouches, and a few courses later, my imaginary Playbill had been ripped to shreds; its synopsis of the evening inaccurate.

Terrance Brennan, Picholine’s Chef-Proprietor, offers inventive twists on French-Mediterranean cuisine. Diners select their $92, three-course meal from a menu divided into Preludes, Day Boats, The Land, and Desserts. An extraordinary cheese selection and tasting menus are also available.

Prelude creations such as Sea Urchin Panna Cotta, Tuna Cru “Napoleon,” Salt Cod Cloud and “Ham and Eggs” highlight Brennan’s originality. Their complex tastes and textures demonstrate his skill.

The Panna Cotta, a silky pyramid of lobster broth and sea urchin, rests in an ocean consommé and is topped with caviar. It’s accompanied by the most delicate of seaweed dusted potato wafers. Crisp, smooth, salt – it’s all there.

The Salt Cod Cloud floats to the table in a glass filled with brandade-like cod, potatoes and smoked trout caviar. It traverses the line between briny parfait and New England Clam Chowder.

At the bottom of the Preludes section, under the words “(upon request),” lies a Simple Salad. Under the Day Boats and The Land sections, the same words prelude a Wagyu Beef Rib-eye. Those seeking refuge from the unusual will be accommodated, but with just enough shame to fill a parentheses.

Picholine embraces game season with an offering of Wild Scottish Game, replete with a different kind of parenthetical warning: “(bird shot may be present)”. Red-legged partridge, pheasant, mallard duck, and grouse were available on the night we dined. I was admittedly disappointed that despite two orders of grouse at our table, there wasn’t a pellet of bird shot to be found.

Crimson strips of grouse were as decadent as liver. Faro, kabocha squash, and game jus completed the rustic dish fit for royalty.

The Heirloom Chicken “kiev” is sous vide, crusted in corn flakes, and fried. Oh, and at its center? Liquefied foie gras. It was ridiculously succulent and flavorful. (And that’s coming from someone who rarely finds anything about chicken ridiculous.) Across the table, lamb was Moroccan spiced, yogurt cooled, and grandly presented in a clay tagine.

Laughs emanated for our high-spirited table (we were celebrating two birthdays that night) and our servers pandered to our mood without ever dropping their professionalism. My mother endearingly and gracefully procures bites from her fellow diners by making her way around the table with fork in hand (yes, she’s actually on foot). At Picholine, every time she would abandon her chair, a new napkin would appear folded by her plate. Jovial banter with the server ensued. My Mom loved every minute.

Brennan is also the Chef-Proprietor of Artisanal Bistro and Wine Bar, if that gives you any indication of the depth and breadth of cheeses offered at Picholine. Looking at the gorgeous selection was almost satisfying enough. The flight that was prepared for us was dairy perfection.

I’ve been disenchanted with restaurant desserts as of late, but the Warm Caramel Apple Brioche gave me renewed hope. It was a miniature loaf of sweet, autumn goodness. The delicate look of the Liquid Chocolate “Tart” proved only a cover for its profound richness. In honor of the birthdays, the table was also gifted two chocolate mousse cakes.

When I posted my review of Veritas a few weeks ago, it was met with strong disagreement from one of my fellow diners from that evening. He thought the meal was excellent. At $92, I thought it was over-priced.

Take your $92 to Picholine, my friend. I will be vindicated, and you will be very, very impressed.

35 West 64th Street
New York, NY 10023

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

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