Picholine, NYC 7
March 6, 2012
Picholine continues in its role as an elegant Grande Dame of New York restaurants despite losing its second Michelin star this year. Linda and I went there for dinner on January 23, 2012, after a fascinating Opera Guild lecture at Lincoln Center with another Grande Dame, Marilyn Horne.
The ambience is very understated with appropriate low lighting so my photos are a bit muted. (We had a lovely meal at Eleven Madison Park the week before, but the lighting was even lower and my camera stayed in my pocket.) On sitting down, we ordered glasses of Duval Leroy Champagne, since the ambience certainly called for champagne, while we looked at the menu. There are several choices of menus and à la carte selections. We ordered the Tasting Menu Royale at $145. It offers two choices in most of the eight courses. I ordered the wine pairings at $95, while Linda was happy with a glass of viognier and one of pinot noir.
The initial amuse-gueules included a butternut squash panna cotta, a little truffle tidbit and a lobster/orange arancina.
Then came two lollipops: fig with ham and crusted manchego cheese.
These were fun. As you can see, Picholine was not very busy after the pre-Lincoln Center crowd on this rainy Monday night in January. There was a party of about twenty young professionals in the private dining room.
Then a quail egg with a toasted brioche crust and American caviar.
This was superb and frustrating in only being one mouthful.
The final amuse-gueule was a potato foam with black truffle.
The truffle flavor was strong and good.
Our first tasting menu course was
sea urchin panna cotta
Chilled Ocean Consommé, Caviar
Alongside were potato/seaweed crisps that were light, but added needed texture. This signature dish of Picholine is always outstanding with various flavors of the sea complementing each other.
The pairing with this was the very good and appropriate Yoi-No-Tsuki (Midnight Moon) Daiginjo Sake.
The second course for both of us was
foie gras roti
Root Vegetables, Winter Fruits, Jus de Cuisson
The foie gras was nicely seared, but the piece was not large enough for all the good winter vegetables and fruits.
The wine was a Château de Suronde Quarts de Chaume late harvest chenin blanc. It had a light natural swetness that complemented the dish. The sommelier pointed out what I was thinking, that the wine order: dry sake, sweet, red, elegant white, robust red, sweet and sweeter was not ideal, but that was how the menu was constructed.
Linda’s third course was
celery root-apple agnolotti
Porcini Marmalade, Celery Tempura, Black Truffle
The light agnolotti hidden under the foam were filled with an excellent celery root-apple combination. The crisp celery tempura completed a light, fine dish.
Wild Game Bolognaise
Picholine in the winter always offers a selection of wild Scottish game: hare, pheasant, grouse etc so trimmings are available to make this very rich sauce. Pasta made with chestnut flour seems appropriate, but its flavor was totally submerged.
The wine was a 2007 Scarzello Barbera d’Alba. It was okay, but the dish really needed a huge Barolo.
Linda’s next course was
butter poached lobster
Potato-Smoked Ricotta Mousseline, Cèpes, Cabbage
The lobster sauce in which the lobster and mousseline were served was rich and elegant like the other ingredients.
Pemaquid Oyster Fondue, Lettuce, Salsify
The turbot was nicely done, with a crunchy crust on top. The oyster purée underneath worked well with it.
The wine was a Meursault, but I didn’t note the name.
Our next course was
wild scottish pheasant
Black Trumpet Coulis, Foie Gras Sabayon, Sauce Périgueux
The pheasant had just the right amount of gamey flavor. We did not find a shot in it, despite the menu’s warning that we might. The black chanterelles were more of a ragout than the announced coulis and had an appropriate woodsy flavor. The rich truffled brown sauce and the light foie gras sabayon were additional luxurious touches that made this dish an excellent crescendo for our meal.
The wine was 2009 “La Ciboise,” a good rich Syrah, Grenache blend from the Luberon by Chapoutier.
Mousse, Caramelized Meringue, Sherbet, Sauternes Gelée
Picholine is famous for its cheese trolley, but this small, focussed cheese course was adequate for us after the rich pheasant dish. Roquefort flavored the savory meringe crisp, the mousse in front and the sorbet underneath on the right. The sauternes jelly in the back left added some nice offsetting sweetness.
The wine was a 2007 St Croix-du-Mont, a sweet wine similar to Sauternes, which is right across the Gironde River from it.
goat cheese mousse
Salted Walnut Brittle
This small predessert made the transition from cheese to sweet.
The dessert was
apple “pain perdu”
Caramel Ice Cream, Apple Cloud, Rum Raisin Sauce
These flavors all complemented each other nicely. The dish was refreshing, not cloying or too sweet. Linda said it was what a dessert should be.
The wine was a 2000 Charles Schleret Selection de Grains Nobles Gewürtztraminer from Alsace. It was suberb.
There were lovely mignardises.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. It was in the old French tradition without being overly heavy. There were caviar, truffles, foie gras, wild game, lobster, turbot etc, some of them two or three times. Their flavors were used well; they were not just added as a garnish for effect. I would not have organized the dishes in the order arranged by the chef, but his ideas are not uncommon. For me the dishes should start with the fish and seafood, then the foie gras should be served with an aromatic semi-dry wine so as not to throw off the palate and then the pasta and game courses can follow. The wines would follow a logical progression and would be suitable for ordering by the bottle.
The service was always attentive and the pace was fine. I know that this type of restaurant is shunned by the younger crowd nowadays, but I think that if they could relax and savor the cuisine, they would enjoy it and learn something about the roots of today’s trendy techniques. Based on this meal Picholine should still have its second Michelin star.
To see our six previous meals at Picholine click here.