Rouge et Blanc, NYC
August 30, 2011
On July 13, 2011 Linda and I went to Rouge et Blanc for dinner. This “French-Vietnamese” restaurant was opened last October and has received many enthusiastic reports. The chef, Matt Rojas, has worked at Eleven Madison Park and Degustation in New York. The influence of the sous-chef, Makoto Osaki, was obvious as there were as many Japanese touches as Vietnamese. The pastry chef, Melissa Chang, was also our server. The owner and maître d’hôtel, Thomas Cregan, has a background as a sommelier, including Chanterelle; the wine list is exclusively French, providing the name of the restaurant. It is designed to have the look and feel of a colonial tavern from 1940s Saigon.
We ordered glasses of Domaine Pascal Pibaleau, Touraine, “La Perlette.” This dark rosé sparkling wine from the Loire Valley is made with 100% organic techniques from the unusual Grolleau grape. It had a herbacious, mineral flavor, an interesting change from Champagne types, but did not have their bright, refreshing quality.
We ordered a bottle of 2009 Saint Cosme Condrieu, Puyvert. It was a good, typical Condrieu.
The Amuse Bouche was a Kumamoto oyster topped with wasabe and a dab of Santa Barbara sea urchin.
Unlike other oysters, Kumamotos are thought to be best in summer. The two garnishes perked it up and made it richer.
The three hors d’oeuvres were
House Cured Sockeye Salmon
Basil Oil, Soy Grape Must, Glazed Almonds
Lynnehaven’s Goat Cheese, Mint
Charred Leek Confit, grilled shishito pepper
The three were very different from each other, but each was a nice combination showing off a good ingredient.
The first course was
Green Papaya Slaw
Whole Fried White Shrimp, Sweetened Tofu, Curry Vinaigrette
The shredded strips of unripe papaya were tossed with strips of tofu, which were sweetened to balance the oriental vinaigrette. The flavors were nicely balanced. One ate the entire small tempura shrimp as the best flavor is in the head and tail. Chopsticks were provided for this dish.
Thinly Sliced with Sizzling Garlic Oil, Scallion Soy Bun
The interesting sauce was too powerful for the fluke. It went better with the warm bun, which was the only bread served during the meal.
Soft Shell Crab
Nuoc Mam, Radishes, Fine Herbs, Glazed Peanuts
This course didn’t work at all. The out of season half soft shell crab had been breaded and crisply fried. It had little flavor. I suppose any restaurant with Vietnamese pretensions has to serve Nuoc Mam, the fish sauce made from fermented anchovies. This one was thinned with lime juice. It was a real palate killer, particularly for the wine.
Grilled with Cucumber Coulis, Summer Sprouts
I was surprised to see this sweetfish, which I think of as being purely Japanese. It was nicely grilled and had a good subtle flavor, enhanced by the seasonal cucumber sauce.
Linda ordered a glass of 2005 Château LaFleur Blanchon, Lussac Saint-Emilion. I had a glass of 2009 Domaine Rouge-Bleu, Dentelle. This wine, made from Carignan and Grenache grapes, was of interest to me as it is grown near Sainte Cécile les Vignes in the Vaucluse, where we often stop to buy wine at the Chantecôtes cooperative. Rouge-Bleu is a new winery. I found this glass to be an improvement over their wine that I had tasted before.
Creekstone Skirt Steak
Maitake Ragout, Uni, Veal Jus, Pee Wee Potatoes, Watercress
This flavorful piece of beef benefitted from multiple garnishes, including, most unusually, two dabs of sea urchin, which added a bit of natural saltiness. Nice.
Caramelized Foie Gras
Jersey Peaches, Cocoa Nib Crumble, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
The warm foie gras had been marinated in miso, producing a good caramelization when it was sautéed. It was nestled against a slice of fresh seasonal peach. The ice cream, chocolate bits and cherry added textural, temperature and other good contrasts. This was a fine, imaginative dessert.
If not for the unsatisfactory fluke and crab courses, this would have been a very good meal. The other courses were notable for their well executed, imaginative combinations, all in the framework of French-Asian fusion. Melissa was an attentive server as well as creator of the foie gras dessert. She carefully explained each dish. The pace was fine until the last few courses when the restaurant had filled up.