Sunday, August 5, 2012


(photo courtesy of Ontheinside)

Among the upscale, grande dame restaurants in New York City, Picholine ranks among the queenliest in my estimation. Quietly regal, gracious and refined, and much loved by food critics, Picholine is an institution so secure in its station that it hasn't deviated from Terrance Brennan's style of French-Mediterranean cuisine and formal service since its opening in 1993.

Picholine has been the venue for many birthday lunches in my family and therefore holds a special place in our hearts. Unfortunately, the restaurant discontinued its lunch service several months ago. While I've been to the bar for a quick bite before Lincoln Center, I only experienced my first dinner service there just recently.

I tried the five course menu, which came with lots of extras:

Amuse bouche - perfect little bites that included a baby radish with yogurt, cauliflower panna cotta with lemon gelee and fried capers, a hazelnut bonbon. and a soft poached quail egg en croute topped with caviar.

Vegetable salad - an ambrosial mix of asparagus. fava beans, carrots, ramps, snap peas, greens, and parmesan cream in an herbal dressing.

Grilled octopus, soft farm egg, polenta, chorizo crumble - this was like a comforting, savory porridge, best eaten with a spoon.

Halibut en croute, English pea puree, pea tendrils, onion, rhubarb mint jus - the "croute" consisted of a light crisp bread coating on one side of the halibut, which provided a nice contrast to the creamy pruree.

Painted Hills Farm rib eye, potato croquette, Bearnaise cloud, scallion puree - the description says it all. This is easily my favorite beef dish in the city.

Cheese course (supplement) - Picholine's cheese cart is justifiably famous. I especially enjoyed the Époisses de Bourgogne, reputedly Napoleon's favorite cheese, and the Cosne De Port Aubry, a mild cheese shaped like a cone with an aroma of mushrooms and a hazelnut finish.

Pre-dessert - a strawberry cloud set upon a few drops of aged balsamic and topped with chocolate rice crisps in a tidy little pile on a spoon.

Chocolate textures - the chocolate variations included flan, mousse, powder, ice cream, and marshmallows.

Mignardises - pate de fruit, strawberry and pineapple jalapeno macarons, canelé, chocolate truffles.

The elegant lavender and gray dining room is being renovated and the restaurant will reopen on September 6 in time for the opera season. Jonathan Mailo, previously of Daniel, will remain as Chef de Cuisine. Changes will include expanded bar and pre-theater menus. I'm looking forward to Picholine's new incarnation and, hopefully, many dinners there in the future.

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