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

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

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lyon Bouchon Moderne - January 1, 2011

Escargots – Garlic sausage, watercress risotto

It is about time that escargots squirmed out of their little holes. Granted Escargots à la Bourguignonne is delicious, but among all the innovations, inventions and creations – from deconstructed to destructed, it is an unforgivable neglect that escargots have stayed stagnant in its comfortable garlic herb butter. Is it in fact a sign of general decline in creativity? Or, is it simply due to laziness in the name of cost cutting to keep using the half-dozen escargot plates? Please: Even mussels have discovered curry.

Therefore, Lyon’s attempt to raise escargots above the common myth were appreciated with a sense of vindicated recognition – a simple white plate with a heap of iridescent green. While large escargots managed to retain the fresh firmness – not your canned softies, they also attained gently cooked tenderness, instead of becoming chunks of chewing gums à la nightmare. The garlic sausage kicked up the mollusk of a rather ambivalent taste (that is why they are covered in garlic herb butter). The abundant watercress risotto – thankfully light, or how do we finish? – folded in the escargots and garlic sausage into one pleasant dish. However, the menu should have read “Risotto – Escargots, garlic sausage, watercress,” as opposed to “Escargots…” since it was primarily a risotto dish.

Charcuterie platter – Country pate, smoked beef sausage, pig trotter roulade, pickles

A country pate, or pâté de campagne, is a classic bistro dish. Although it is now ubiquitously seen in many establishments, which purport to be bistros, it is rarely done correctly as something is always wanting. It is the something that makes or unmakes a dish, is it not? A country pate can be expressed as a concentrated porcinity, complexly built by meats and fats and spiced by skill and experience. Lyon’s scented by thyme country pate was delicate, rich, smooth and yet meaty – a satisfying meal in itself.

The pig trotter roulade – usually a meat rolled with stuffing – was a misnomer; or perhaps the roulade had a day off. Correctly, the pig trotter in aspic – a savory gelatin made of stock – was a shocking revelation: Frankly, I had never thought it could be anything other than an outdated Victorian finger food when there was no refrigeration. I have always viewed the wobbly, cold and salty gelatins as necessary and unavoidable byproducts as the result of the stock, reduced to a sufficient consistency and left overnight on the stove or stored in the refrigerator. Gelatin, in my opinion, had a far superior position among the juices and liquors. However, this pig trotter in aspic made a difference in my life. It was aromatic and silky and it melted endearingly in the mouth; the jus from the melted gelatin was there on the palate to envelope the shredded pig’s foot and to gently slide it down.

The unmemorable beef sausage needed to try harder against these other two competitors.
Lobster Bisque

The special soup of the New Year’s Day was too salty, too thin, and just too one-dimensional. It lacked depth, it lacked flavor, and it lacked cream, although in terms of lobster meat and butter, it had plenty.

St. Jacques – Diver scallops, smashed fingerling potatoes, sauce charcuterie

If there was a defining moment that night at Lyon, it was when I tasted this unassuming but marvelously cooked mixture of scallops and potatoes. The dainty scallops were luscious, while the subtle hint of brininess was perfected by the sweetness from the fingerling potatoes. The tangy and lightly acidic charcuterie sauce – from the mustard and white wine, if you must know – was well-controlled as it brought the best of the two simple ingredients together.

Pintade – Guinea fowl, root vegetables, thyme

The thyme-infused root vegetable sauce was earthy and warm, which helped to save the poor, dry and bland guinea fowl. Has the art of roasting fowls been lost in the land where the last bird standing seems to be the tirelessly discussed and inexplicably obsessed turkey?

Au Poivre – Strip steak, green peppercorn sauce, French fries

A thick piece of decent beef was cooked to a perfect medium rare. Despite the respectable steak grilling expertise, the green peppercorn sauce stole the show: It was one of the best au poivre I had ever had. Piquant, fiery and herbal from the green peppercorn – you just cannot use regular black pepper for this sauce – and velvety from the liquor and the cream, the sauce was a masterpiece of mildness and fire. The spiciness and the creaminess danced against each other only to return together in harmony. The truly thick-cut rectangular French fries were not something that I would have preferred, but the fluffiness and the width of the fries proved to be suspiciously strategic vessels to soak up the delicious sauce.

Lyon Bouchon Moderne

Address: 118 Greenwich Avenue, New York, NY 10011
Phone: (212) 242-5966

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