A Brief Dinner at Picholine
Two Fridays ago, I’ve arranged a small dinner with Robyn, Jess, and her roommate, Jen to Picholine‘s bar/lounge. Why? It’s because I’m intrigued by their menu, it’s relatively affordable compared to their main dining room’s menu and we’re not dying of starvation.
As we waited a bit for a table to free up in this small area, we’ve talked updated each other about our lives since most of us haven’t seen each other for a bit. Also, observing the restaurant and the lounge, it’s filled with diners are generally at least a decade older than all of us. The atmosphere is very refined, you smell the heady musk of cheese and edible mold, and as Jen said when we left the restaurant, “stuffy.” Probably, I could live with it but I guess it’s not for everyone.
Eventually, we got seated and decided what we wanted to try from the “tasting flights.” So here’s what we all ordered:
Robyn and Jen ordered the same thing – unintentionally. They both wanted the chestnut pheasant veloute, foie gras explosion, and the sweetbreads. I’ve tried Robyn’s veloute and found it pretty delicious. Thick, rich and creamy soup that’s slightly flavored with chestnuts and has that viscous texture of it when it’s blended. The pheasant flavor was veering toward the neutral side. But the few shavings of black truffles made this soup a bit decadent. I’ll write about the foie gras explosion and the sweetbreads later on since I have them myself.
As for Jess’s flight, she wanted to be different than the rest of us by having the Wagyu beef a la Basque, exotic fruit soup, and sea scallops cru. Honestly, I haven’t tasted anything but her fruit soup, which basically passion fruit soup that was wonderfully vibrant and balanced with sweet and tart. She told me the other items on her plate was simply “good.”
Finally for me, I’ve ordered the PX sherry sorbet with serrano ham chips, foie gras explosion, and sweetbreads. I have to wonder what did I think of when I ordered the PX sherry sorbet? I have a ridiculously low alcohol tolerance and I still ordered this tasting. Anyway, this sherry sorbet was exceptionally strong in terms of sherry flavor and alcohol content, as well as slightly sweet, dark, and syrupy when I let it dissolve onto my palate. When I let Jen and Jess try my sorbet, they all commented that “it’s strong and boozy.” The salty, serrano ham chips along with this cold, slushy, concoction kind of lost me. It’s interesting in terms of playing with temperatures on the palate but my tastebuds can’t get over the fact that I’m tasting alcohol with a touch of salty ham at the end.
Moving onto the other dishes, the sweetbreads this is my favorite dish. The sweetbreads was cooked correctly – creamy-firm texture and it’s crisp on the outside. The heirloom beets and mustard-caper emulsion added some flavor to otherwise a relatively bland offal and made a bit lighter and complex. The foie gras explosion with gizzards and frisée was the most disappointing. I didn’t experience any “explosion” from it. It’s just a thin raviolo, if you will, filled with a touch of foie gras. No flavors exploded, nothing physically exploded from the thin pasta shell. I was befuddled why they named it “foie gras explosion.”
They actually included a miniature dessert course of chocolates and petit fours. The chocolate bon bons (flavors included were mint, lemon, milk chocolate feuilletine, dark chocolate truffle, and another flavor that I can’t remember) were generally good but not amazing. The petit fours were basically a small cake stand of bite sized: Florentine cookie, Linzer cookie, almond financiers, chocolate cakes, apricot filled tarts, and apricot pâté de fruits. These fared a bit better but still on the small rationed side for sharing amongst us four.
Overall, I think the “tasting flights” menu has some hits and misses like any menu would have. It’s not too awful spending three tastings for $20. I need to try out the dining room’s food to have a fuller perspective.
Picholine (Lounge/Bar area)
35 West 64th Street (between Broadway & Central Park West)
New York, NY 10023 (map)