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« Bites: Connecticut | Main | Life beyond chowhound.com »
Friday
Oct152010

A gastronomic love story at Picholine

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Cuisine: French
  • Atmosphere: elegant, dramatic, rich, formal
  • Attire: business-casual
  • Ideal for: small groups, 1x1, special occasion, prix-fixe, famous chef, cheese course, exotic game, private dining
  • Price: expensive
  • Phone: 212-724-8585
  • Location: 35 W. 64th Street (between Broadway & Central Park West)
  • Website: click *here*
  • Directionswww.hopstop.com/?city=newyork
  • *All of my photos from this meal can be found on Flickr

    ~

    Ah, picholine.  The word, alone, elegantly rolls off of even the most ungraceful tongue and, for those of us fortunate enough to have traveled to the South of France, evokes images of the namesake "fruit," liberally dotting the branches of bountiful, vibrant-green olive trees.  But "across the pond," Picholine takes on an entirely new connotation, one in the form of a fine French/Mediterranean dining establishment located on Manhattan's regal Upper West Side. 

    In honor of my dear cousin's arrival from Los Angeles, I thought that dinner at Michelin-starred Picholine would be the perfect introduction to her week-long "Gotham Immersion."  We arrived a couple of minutes early for our 7:15pm seating and, after being asked if we were ready to retire to the dining room, Shelley and I followed the hostess to our spacious table. 

    Picholine's interior space, in its entirety, is one of the most breathtaking and elegant in the city.  The mauve-colored, upholstered walls seem to reach great heights before meeting the elaborately-carved crown molding, which borders its stark-white ceiling.  Crystal chandeliers, nearly the size of kiddie-pools, delicately illuminate the space and create a sparkling reflection in the over-sized, beveled mirrors which adorn the walls.  Plush velvet banquettes and chairs embrace tabletops enveloped by crisp white linens.  Despite a high occupancy of diners, the restaurant's acoustics brilliantly retain a level of reticence.

    There are not enough words in the English dictionary to properly convey the beauty of Picholine's space.

    Dinner at Picholine: note the crown molding, mauve-colored walls, beveled mirrors, and upholstered sconcesDinner at Picholine: table scapeShelley and I sipped on glasses of red wine as we perused Picholine's dinner menu and its various prix-fixe meal options.  After settling on the least expensive of the four (three prix-fixe selections or the option to order a-la-carte), we chose to proceed with the $89 four-course prix-fixe, which included one plate from each of the following categories: prelude, pasta, meat or fish, and dessert. 

    Dinner at Picholine: le menuSince our meal consisted of an abundance of dishes and courses, I'm going to describe each under its respective photograph, below:

    ~

    Picholine-olive breadYah, yah.  I know that I shouldn't consider bread to be a proper meal "course" but, when it's this delicious, I simply cannot leave it out of a review. 

    A designated bread server strolled throughout the dining room, replenishing guests with their choice of three-four different varieties.  And while the other types looked every bit as delectable, I repeatedly defaulted to the signature picholine roll - a long, oval-shaped number with a salty outer crust that gave way to a moist interior, liberally dotted with chunks of the namesake green olive.

    Amuse boucheFrom the top, going clockwise:

    • Deconstructed Caesar salad
    • Pumpkin custard
    • Fluke bite topped with marscapone creme

    Amuse bouche, part deuxThe spoon in the above photo was topped with a delicate potato foam and crowned with freshly-grated black truffle. 

    "Prelude" course: Warm Main LobsterServed atop fried "vanilla milk," - looking back, I assume this was a disc of batter-fried vanilla custard - was a mountainous melange of fresh, amply-portioned lobster meat, pickled red onion slices, and gooseberries.

    Shelley's "prelude" course: Autumn Vegetable SaladEach bite of Shelley's prelude course, the "Autumn Vegetable Salad," tasted different from the last.  Among its lengthy list of ingredients were: beet gelee, raspberry meringue caps, toasted and spiced parsnips, Brussels sprout leaves, and mushrooms.

    "Pasta" course: Chestnut TagliatelleChef Terrance Brennan's "Chestnut Tagliatelle" pasta paid homage to his passion for game meats, particularly those hunted in Scotland.  A tangle of rich and earthy, hand-made chestnut noodles came smothered in a red wine + mirepoix-based Bolognese sauce, comprised of ground game meats (grouse, woodpigeon, hare, venison).  A walnut "snow" gracefully blanketed the pasta.

    Pre-entree course: Diver Sea ScallopServed atop a smear of curried squash puree and pomegranate jus, sat a perfectly-seared diver sea scallop.  A crunchy, single fried kale leaf and a handful of fresh pomegranate seeds accompanied the bivalve, which was finished with a dainty dollop of coconut foam.

    "Meat or fish" course: Painted Hills Farm Sirloin1/2"-thick slices of naturally and humanely-raised Oregon beef sirloin, cooked to a faultless "medium rare," were each separated by a homemade scalloped potato "chip."  The meat 'n potatoes sat atop a shallow "reflecting pool" of fragrant creamed spinach that was accompanied by a grilled cippollini onion and a "cloud" of Bearnaise foam.

    Shelley's "Meat or Fish" course: Sea BassNever in my life - or at least in recent memory - have I tasted a more delicate, moist, buttery, flaky, and perfectly-cooked piece of fish.  Scale-on filets of white-meat sea bass - which resembled a sexy pair of fishnet stockings - were paired with fried lettuce leaves and slices of cauliflower and lemon, in addition to what I'm assuming was panko "crunch" and cauliflower puree.  This entree was nothing short of a pristine culinary masterpiece.

    "Dessert" course: Passion Fruit "Cannoli"Light-as-air passion fruit foam filled a pineapple "cannoli" shell - literally, a paper-thin slice of dried, rolled pineapple - that was bound to the bottom of the shallow bowl by a schmear of coconut-tapioca pudding.  Exotic fruit jus/soup acted as a moat surrounding the "cannoli."

    Shelley's "Dessert" course: selections from Picholine's famous cheese cartPicholine's gratis dessert amuse: two-tier cake tower of handmade, assorted petit-foursPicholine's gratis dessert amuse of handmade chocolate truffles~

    Conclusion my experience at Picholine, from start to finish, was nothing short of perfection - in every sense of the word.  This was one of the most memorable meals I've had in all of my 6.5 years of living in NYC.  And unlike Bouley or Blue Hill, I didn't feel as though my wallet had been victimized.  I realize that $89 for a four-course meal sounds like an exorbitant amount of money to spend on oneself for dinner, but for the amount of high quality food received - in addition to the four courses that you're already paying for - this was actually great deal, especially in Manhattan.  Still though, dinner at Picholine is - at least for me - a restaurant reserved for special occasions and celebrations.  Lunch, on the other hand, could turn in to a once/week ritual.  Having made its recent debut, midday service includes a super affordable prixe-fixe menu - $28 for 2-courses!

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