"I have the simplest tastes. I am simply satisfied with the best." - Oscar Wilde

"I came, I saw, I ate." - Au Gourmand

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Le Paris Bistrot, October 8, 2010

Once in a while, I revive one of my pet projects perhaps to try my luck, an experiment not dissimilar to a dogged search through a bin of collected buttons to find the matching button for a shirt or a coat, saved in a tin box from so many labels for that one incident where you may indeed need it in the long span of time, dragged from apartment to apartment but miraculously never lost, and never thrown out because you hope against hope that one day your conscientiousness may pay off and your fingers will find that button among a thousand...how satisfying, how justified will that feel!? Finding the right bistro is such a quest:  With so many French people in New York, where do they go to eat?  Not the corner deli or another "New-American" whatnot.  Do the French expats simply give into the sorry state of French restaurants on this small island, bossed by chef-generals who are more interested in world domination and wasabi and Thai curry rather than good, solid French cooking, as a part of the bargain they have signed up for in this New World?  Unless it is located in the French Consulate, based on sound reasonable estimate on the number of French stomachs in New York City, yes, there must be a good bistro; however, in reality, there is not. A few promising establishments have have maddeningly close and yet failed:  Artisanal, Balthazar, etc.  Where is that one place where bubbling onion soup gratinee will always welcome me?  I am running against time as the dreary long New York winter is approaching...yet again.
L'Artichaut Vinaigrette
Artichoke, delightfully beautiful to view, but not much to munch on, is one of the most frustrating vegetables on earth and is long overdue for a genetic engineering (please, you think anything you are eating today has not been through this human-supported evolution/mutation?).  Scientists, farmers, please consider artichokes, and if there is trend in genetic engineering, please make artichokes fashionable:  It is about time we move beyond soy bean and corn.
Freshly steamed and paired with a light vinaigrette, the artichoke, wherever little edible, was just fine, in the same sense you reply "Fine" to your co-worker's "How are you?"  Just like the first cup of tea on Monday morning, the vinaigette, which was more of a thinned mayonnaise, had totally failed to wake me up or my taste buds.  A solid, standard and well-grounded homemade mayonnaise would have made a much better accompaniment.

Pate de Canard Maison
A wake up call after the promptly forgotten artichoke, this pate was intensely ducky but not overly fatty - a well-calculated blend of meat and fat.  It would have sat beautifully on a triangle (or other shapes) of toast; however, warm toasts were not a part of the dish. Consoling myself with the baguette, I wondered if it was possible to ask for a larger, thicker slice to take out for a delightful pate sandwich to accompany my hiking expedition (Physical exertion is not worth it if not accompanied by worthy reward). 
Le Saumon d'Alaska a l'Unilateral
Salt, salt, salt...I do not like to salt my own food in a restaurant! Is that too much to ask? I feel sorry for the otherwise perfectly done salmon skin, which seemed to have at the expense of my request for "medium rare." On second thought, perfectly crispy skin should not have come at the cost of fully cooked salmon, should it?

Le Foie de Veau a l'Echalotte confit, Puree Maison
Overdone and overcooked! No, no, no...livers are unbearable when overcooked! The failure of the dish was partially due to the thinness of the liver:  It simply could not stand up to the high heat, not to mention that it would not make the texture right.  Looking up the menu, now I know the sauce was meant to be shallot confit, but those two scraggy long slivers seemed almost ashamed to have introduced themselves as shallots, sitting miserably on the inexcusable liver. 
Creme Caramel
I know, I know, up until this point, this was going to be another wrong "button."  Nonetheless, nonetheless...the creme caramel, the crown of all bistro dessert, was the best ever in New York. Well, best in New York is not a high compliment in my line of vocabulary, sad to say, because regardless of what Zagat and New York Times would have you believe, New York is not the, or even a, gastronomic capital in the world:  Diversity, yes, but quality, no. Therefore, "best ever in New York" often translates to "the only edible version in New York."  Having said that, this creme caramel was good, smooth, rich and decadently sweet, although swaying dangerously close to being too sweet. Their creme caramel made this place a "bistro" and I may return to give it another chance when I ran out of other candidates.  Sometimes, a pop quiz does not test out the true potential of a student as the student may have had a cold or a broken heart; similarly, a pre-theater menu may also not represent the restaurant in its full light.  Having said that, I am quite intolerant when it comes to restaurants to using low price as an excuse for low quality:  Restaurants are selling their cooking, whether the price is high or low.  Therefore, for a pre-fixe, while the portion can be smaller and the preparation simpler, poor result is simply not acceptable. Nonetheless, quality over quantity is something that too numerous New York restaurants do not understand, perhaps, mistakenly fearful of misplaced complaints over plate size on reviews.

Fondant Au Chocolat
Perhaps I am a purist when it comes to chocolate:  Adding flour, milk or eggs only dilutes the already complete food - chocolate.  Cooking needs to be more than sum of its parts; the cooking must take each ingredient and transform them onto a higher plane to form a new matter - a creation that is almost as sacred and sublime as life itself. Hence, when one ingredient, chocolate, is already complete within itself (I am assuming using the best chocolate, of course), any ingredient added can easily disturb such perfection.  That is why I view chocolate desserts askance.  So far, only two chocolate desserts have made the jump to that higher level of being:  Chocolate cake at Gotham Bar and Grill and the Cacao Tart at Bar Paya.  Was Le Paris' fondant on my list? No, right? So, it is a "no" with a good reason:  It was not as good as my chocolate cake or even close.

Le Paris Bistrot
Address:  1312 Madison Ave. (between 92nd St & 93rd St), New York, NY 10128
Phone:  (212) 289-0997

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