PICHOLINE

PICHOLINE  

New York, New York

December 2007

This restaurant had been one of our favorites for years.  Close to Lincoln Center, it has a busy pre-theatre crowd, but if you make a reservation after 8 p.m. (when the restaurant hustles to get everyone out and make a theater curtain), the restaurant becomes quite serene and serves some exciting dishes.  This year they renovated and changed their menu.   

If you visit New York City in the month of December you will know a lot of people come in from out of town.  Granted, New York City is a huge tourist destination any time of year but in December you have the added bonus of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the fancy window displays at most of the big department stores, lots of lights, music and shopping.  It’s truly a magical time of year. Consequently, both the mood in the city and the restaurant are festive.

I had looked at the new menu online and liked what I saw.  When we got to the restaurant, I immediately disliked the renovated space.  Could they have made it even more boring than the old décor?  That said, we weren’t there to buy furniture, we were there to eat.

We started with the “bacon and eggs,” a play on the concept of a smoked piece of tuna (the bacon) in a soft creamy polenta (the eggs).  We both thought it was an amazing dish. That was as good as it got.

Lynn was feeling particularly hungry that night and ordered four courses to my three. His first course – a simple plate of bay scallops.  The server for some reason thought I would feel “left out” if I, too, weren’t eating something, so he brought me a small portion of the same dish.  Only one problem:  I’m not a big scallop fan so my excitement level was pretty low.  Lynn, who could eat plates of scallops (and that’s all) for the rest of his life, didn’t look too excited about his dish though either.  

We moved on to the loup de mer which was rubbery (too long in the pan?). Lynn, intrigued by the favorable reviews in the press about the chicken Kiev with the liquid foie gras decided to give it a shot. Even at first bite he thought the chicken rollatini he eats at home was better.  (The last time I checked, I don’t make chicken rollatini stuffed with foie gras but I accepted the compliment anyway.)

I had the pheasant. It was tough and boring. I ate it anyway. We did mention to our server that I was not happy with the dish. He said he would take care of it. I’m not sure what he meant by that other than taking my plate away.

Then came the cheese. We love cheese and each had five choices. We asked for “the stinkier the cheese the better.” Some were ripe to the point of ammonia.  All of a sudden I had an epiphany:  Chef Brennan, the “King of Cheese” wasn’t going to deliver that night!  We ate the cheese anyway and bypassed dessert or coffee. 

Then came the bill. According to my calculations, Lynn had four courses; I had three courses with a supplement for the pheasant. So much for “taking care” of the dish.

In fairness, I did send a similar version of this review to Chef Terrance Brennan about the lackluster meal and he graciously offered us a $200.00 gift certificate to come back another time.  We used the gift certificate nearly a year later.  The meal was still fair. Truth be told, I love Chef Brennan’s other lower end restaurant Artisanal, and going forward that will be my “King of Cheese” restaurant of choice.

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