Tag Archives: restaurant reviews

The New French: Lafayette

Mesdames et Messieurs, the reviews are in: Lafayette you are juste magnifique!

 If there’s one culinary bite of wisdom I’ve managed to chew off over my relatively short life it’s one thing: Taste is place. What first drew me to food was travel, that is to say when I experienced that one dish could so deliciously convey a history, a people, and capture the spice of most importantly, a culture. Food is no other than the expression of a land and of a certain terroir. When we savour a slice of Camembert, we’re tasting the beauty of the pastureland, plains and rolling hills that the creamy cows of the île de France and shores of Normandy are grazing on. In a glass of a really good Burgundy pinot noir, it’s the Jurassic period limestone soil and thousand year old vines unique to one of the world’s most geographically distinct regions that our palettes are really sipping on. And the best authentic French food, is of course going to taste the best in none other than the land of France. So what’s the point of trying to find “authentic” french restaurants in another country? Isn’t it all going to be a sort of sad copy, a nostalgic crusade for all deprived francophones, in search of their own culinary golden age? Well this week, Noho’s infamous Lafayette showed two staunchy traditionalists the beauty of culinary translation and of the American-French restaurant variation.There’s no going back to France, but there is a way to appreciate the value of cultural interpretation, and what American chefs might add to the interpretation of French flavors. This week we’re here to celebrate one of our new favorite culinary breeds: le nouveau style, “American-French.”Cher Lafayette, you are a beautiful hybrid.



DSC_0419380 Lafayette St.


So here’s the deal, Lafayette reigns currently as one of NYC’s top French restaurants and we’re stamping it with our wholehearted francophone seal of approval. And not because you’ll find the most authentic French food there, but rather because it offers innovative, delicious spins on traditional regional french classic dishes. Now we’ll be honest, we’re not on the “Boulud” bandwagon these days. Instead we’re joining “team Lafayette” for their ability to produce delicious, creative spins on the best of French cuisine. It’s that creamy quail egg on their “New Orleans” tabasco aioli beef tartare that really revamps original flavors and makes the classics, well, fun again! The quail egg is not a culinary face lift, but rather an inspired addition. Just like that refreshing layer of sweet sauternes gelée on good ole chicken liver paté done right on a light brioche was then “razzle dazzled” into the modern age with balsamic dressed frisée.  And the best New York-Franco translation of the night that we’re recommending: Duck au Poivre, a riff on French steak au poivre (filet mignon cooked with peppercorns) but reinvented with a meaty, double stuffed Muscovy duck breast and topped with vibrant bursts of orange candied kumquat, radishes, and smoked bacon. No disrespect to Duck à l’Orange, but Lafayette’s unique kumquat announces a new burst of tart citrus flavor with an added raw crunch to pair perfectly with your duck cooked to a perfect pink. It was one subtle ingredient that didn’t renovate one of my favorite dishes, but rather re-translated a transition.


So why are we sending you on a date with duck at Lafayette next weekend? Quality, delicious dishes that fit a creative American-Franco fused menu. La service? Superbe. Lafayette’s waiters are well tasted and eager to talk you through their Holy Bible of a wine list. L’Atmosphere? It’s no comfy cave bistrot, but their art deco inspired interior and suspender strap wearin’ waiters will whisk you and your palette back to a time when dining was truly a celebration, an elegant affair, and a moment to shine your shoes for. A time when waiters still serve a “lady” first and will even delicately crack open your warm soufflé to pour in just the perfect amount of crème anglaise. Lafayette preserves the grace, tradition, and dedication to the craft of preparing and serving food in a way that embodies the very génie of the French Haute Cuisine. So come for cultural culinary innovation, but let yourself be transported back in time to a restaurant that preserves the very essence of Julia Child’s legacy.



Menu Must Haves:

Winter Paté, foie gras, red cabbage, apple cider

Escarole Salad, pomegranate, hazelnut, parmesan, truffle vinaigrette

Prime Beef Tartare “New Orleans,” tabasco aioli, quail egg

Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano

Duck au Poivre, organic grains, radish, smoked bacon

Petite Orange Soufflé with earl grey crème anglaise, mandarin salad

*And supposively we hear the pommes frites sont divine!


 French Check-In: An Afterthought from a Parisian Palette

What was your favorite Lafayette spin?

The French restaurant in NYC? Lafayette, definitely. And maybe because it’s not exactly a French restaurant serving very “typical” dishes that we don’t even really eat back at home.

The restaurant in NYC? Well, that’s a really tricky question obviously, but Lafayette could be in the top five, and considering that there are 16,251 restaurants in NYC (yes actual number), that’s something.

Seriously, this place is everything you can look for when it comes to food: simplicity and quality. I had the Girandole, braised rabbit, picholine olives, oregano (by the way, cheapest dish on the menu, 22 dollars, does it get better than that… ?). It’s a dish I regularly have, from time to time, at home or out. It basically contains pasta and rabbit, that’s it. But this version of it was the real thing because the pasta was perfectly cooked, the rabbit was tender and flavorful. Simple comme bonjour.

PS: Oh, and don’t even get me started on the bread.

-Jeanne Bernard




Chez Dumonet (Josephine)
117, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th)




Veg Out: Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.

For people who avoid dairy, the past few weeks or so may have been a little rough.  Watching people saunter around campus with their cups of freshly swirled fro-yo, stacked high with fruit, chocolate, and granola, can leave one craving a cool, sweet, light spring treat.  That’s where Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. comes in.  They swirl at their Union Square store plus at a seasonal location in the Hamptons.  Dylan’s Candy Bar also serves their creations, and you can find a list online of other retailers that sell Soft Serve Fruit outside of the city.

The company uses just fruit, water, and a little bit of cane sugar to make a healthy alternative to soft serve desserts without dairy, fat, sodium, cholesterol, or gluten.  Basically, if you can eat fruit, you can eat Chloe’s Soft Serve.  But everyone knows the true joy of frozen treats comes from the toppings, and Chloe’s boasts an impressive array  ranging from the typical fare (fruit, coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter sauce, and chocolate sauce) to the more nontraditional (organic cereal, cacao nibs, carob chips, goji berries, and, I’m told, a whopping vegan waffle).

When I heard about this magical concoction, I knew I had to take the trip down to try it.  (One tip: although Yelp will tell you that they have a store on the Upper East Side, that shop is closed.)  Their store is bright and breezy, with very high ceilings and a handful of tables.  They post their two pre-designed sundaes smoothies on one wall, the nutrition facts of their flavors on the other wall, and the six daily flavors on a chalkboard on the main menu above the counter.  The menu also offers smoothies and breakfast options like oatmeal, fruit parfaits, and their warm vegan waffle, plus pints and popsicles to go.

On my afternoon excursion to Chloe’s, I was desperate for chocolate, so I went with a small chocolate soft serve, and added in some mango, banana, and shredded coconut.  Then, about halfway through my sundae, I realized I wasn’t taking full advantage of the opportunity presented to me.  The draw of the dessert is its fruit, and there I was with a cup full of chocolate!  Fortunately, the other chalkboard in the shop reminded me of a very pleasant fact: because it’s only made with fruit, Soft Serve Fruit is low in calories and relatively healthy, as far as desserts go.  Therefore, I reasoned, sampling some more couldn’t hurt; in fact, I would be helping myself if I asked to try a few samples and then ordered a second cup.

I sampled the blood orange, a flavor which started off light but ended with a strong citrus tang.  Then, I tried their raspberry flavor and decided to go for a full order of that.  Overall, the idea of the fruit was more innovative than the actual taste.  None of the flavors brought an entirely different taste experience; instead, the chocolate managed to mimic chocolate frozen yogurt in taste and texture, while the raspberry was more like eating a sorbet.  The only difference I noticed between Soft Serve Fruit and regular dairy soft serve was the aftertaste.  While frozen yogurt leaves a distinctive tang, and other dairy desserts leave your mouth with a strange coating, Soft Serve Fruit has none of these aftereffects.

With a store in Union Square, Chloe’s is a little out of the way for an impulsive jaunt to fulfill a frozen craving.  While I did enjoy scooping my fruit, I’m not sure that it alone would be enough to lure me back downtown.  That being said, one of my previous posts was a review of Beyond Sushi, which is right in the neighborhood!  So I present my final recommendation: this Saturday, take a break from the finals frenzy, hop a train all the way down to Union Square, have some vegan sushi, and browse the farmer’s market with a cup of Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit.

Veg Out: Beyond Sushi

Down on 14th street, tucked next door to an IHOP, you’ll find Beyond Sushi, a little green and brown vegan gem perfect for when the sushi craving strikes.  This past Saturday, I set out for a walk downtown and then hopped a subway to Union Square for my fishless lunch.  I had read reviews online that warned me of limited seating, but I didn’t need to worry; Beyond Sushi may only have three tables with four stools each, but when I arrived, the place was empty except for the two men working behind the counter and the reggae music playing softly in the background.  While short on size and seating, Beyond Sushi makes up for it with a huge and varied menu, which comes attached to a clipboard with an additional sheet announcing their specials.

The exterior of Beyond Sushi

A far cry from the typical veggie sushi options (avocado, cucumber, or both?), Beyond Sushi offers eight different rolls, six individual pieces, three rice paper wraps, soups, and salads.  And that’s not counting the roll of the month and piece of the month!  Even if you sampled the entire menu, the monthly variations and specials could keep you coming back for more.  The ingredients reach beyond typical Café East fare as well, with baked tofu, kiwi, sweet potato, shiitake mushrooms, pickled jalapeño, gobo, and more.  Beyond Sushi also uses two types of rice, a black forbidden rice and a six-grain rice blend.  The black rice gets its coloring from 18 amino acids, and is also gluten free, while the six-grain rice is a mix of rye berries, hulless barley, pearl barley, brown, red, and black rice.

Faced with so many options, I decided to follow the recommendations I had received from Chef Guy Vaknin, and ordered the Spicy Mang, the Roll of the Month, and the Piece of the Month.  I placed my order at the counter, and within minutes, my “green rolls” were presented to me at my table by the window, near the macro shots of Beyond Sushi’s rolls that decorate the walls.

Sushi being prepared for delivery. Unfortunately, they don't deliver above 23rd street.

I started out with their Roll of the Month for March, with lemon-roasted Jerusalem artichoke and marinated carrots, again coated with black rice and topped with sweet green pea-mint sauce and a kale chip garnish.  I appreciated the different textures in this one, between the smooth sauce, the crunchy fresh vegetables, and the crispy topping.  The mint was present, but not overbearing, and didn’t detract from the light sweetness of the carrots or the citrus from the artichoke.

The Roll of the Month

I alternated between the Roll of the Month and the Spicy Mang, a mix of avocado, mango, and cucumber wrapped in black rice, topped with spicy vegetables, and finished with a toasted cayenne sauce.  The roll had a pleasant mix of spicy and crisp.  Geometrically speaking, it definitely got spicier from the bottom-up, ending with a slow burn from the cayenne topping.

The Piece of the Month and Spicy Mang roll

I saved the Piece of the Month for last.  Composed of six-grain rice with sautéed turmeric root, pickled ginger, and green peas, the little green tower waited patiently on the long sushi platter delivered to my table.  When I got to it, I found it had an unexpected earthiness, dominated by the green peas.

I can honestly declare Beyond Sushi a success, although with a few caveats.  First, because it is so far away from campus, I’m not sure it’s worth the long trip just for the sushi.  However, the restaurant is just a few blocks from Union Square. If you go on a Saturday for lunch, like I did, you could make a day of your downtown journey.  Stop by the legendary Union Square Greenmarket for flowers, local vegetables, fruits, jams, and even a vegan bakery stall, if you’re feeling particularly vegetable-y (and hungry).  My second recommendation: bring a friend (or three).  The menu is so extensive, and sushi lends itself so well to sharing, that everyone could order a few rolls, and that way you could try more of Beyond Sushi’s creations!

A lovely Saturday at the market

Chef Guy Vaknin, the man behind the rolls, may be familiar to any Gordon Ramsay fans; he was a contestant on season 10 of Hell’s Kitchen.  He wasted no time after leaving the show, opening Beyond Sushi on July 1, 2012.  I managed to get an interview with Chef Guy; read what he has to say below:

What inspired you to open Beyond Sushi after your turn on Hell’s Kitchen?

The initial idea had originated at the catering company I was working at, the concept was preliminary and I was serving vegetable sushi alongside regular sushi. After Hell’s Kitchen, I became more mindful of what was missing in today’s restaurants and wanted to offer customers an all healthy menu. After seeing the potential of vegetable sushi and changing my own diet to a plant based diet, I decided to go forth with this idea. It is a misconception that sushi is already healthy. I’ve changed everything, even from the rice I use, six-grain rice/ black rice, and don’t use any processed ingredients.

Has Gordon Ramsay responded to your new venture?  How do you think he would?

To my knowledge, Chef Ramsay hasn’t responded to the opening of Beyond Sushi, however, I think he would respond like the general public, wondering what sushi without fish is.

Do you ever get challenges to the concept of entirely-vegan sushi?  Do people ever seem appalled or put off by the idea of fish-less sushi?

People have been put off by the idea of fish-less sushi; typically those people are non-vegetarians or vegans. Yes, I get challenges to the idea of vegan sushi because people have the misconception that vegetables aren’t very flavorful, but in my opinion, vegetables prepared in the right manner can have more flavor than raw fish.

Are you a vegan yourself?  If so, did you make the choice to follow a plant-based diet while opening Beyond Sushi?  Do you still cook meat the way you did on Hell’s Kitchen?

I am personally, am not vegan, though I am vegetarian. When opening Beyond Sushi, I became vegetarian because I became more aware of the health benefits associated with a plant-based diet. I no longer cook meat.

I’m really looking forward to my meal at Beyond Sushi.  Any recommendations, highlights, or must-try dishes to look out for?  What are some of your favorites?

I would definitely recommend the Spicy Mang, as it’s a personal favorite as well as a store top-seller.  In addition, I would highly recommend you to try our Roll of the Month, the Pickle Me, Sweet Tree and La Fiesta. I would also recommend our Rice Paper Wraps, more specifically the Nutty Buddy.

Where do the ideas for your monthly rolls and pieces come from?  What is the process of developing these monthly features?

Since we are located in Union Square, I usually find inspiration from the season and the ingredients available at the Greenmarket (Farmer’s Market in Union Square). I also like to run a “Roll of the Month” contest where our customers submit ingredients they’d like to be featured in the next month’s roll. I oftentimes think about my catering days and take inspiration from there as well.

Is there anything else you want to share about Beyond Sushi?

Yes: I’d love to introduce to you Sprout Catering! Sprout is our all vegan off-premise catering division. We offer Beyond Sushi platters and stations as well as platters/ stations of other great healthy vegan menu items!


Website Round-Up: Immaculate Infatuation

Obviously, the Culinary Society can’t do everything… I mean, we’re just college kids! Plus, it’s the middle of the week… Wednesday, and we’re waaaay over our heads with work until the much-needed Friday. Thus, we bring you this new feature: Website Round-Up where we will introduce a new food-related site that might be of interest to you foodies out there. For our first week, we bring you Immaculate Infatuation.

Co-founders of Immaculate Infatuation, Andrew Steinthal and Chris Stang

The site, immaculateinfatuation.com, started in 2009 by two music execs from the Warner Music Group, Andrew Steinthal and Chris Stang. Like a slew of websites, it is dedicated to reviewing New York restaurants. So at this point we’re asking, “What sets Immaculate Infatuation apart?”

Well, unlike any other NYC restaurant review site such as Yelp, NY Mag, or Eater, Immaculate Infatuation has a fantastic feature that allows you to search restaurants based off of your specific occasion. Looking for “coffee and a late bite?” How about “dinner with the parents?” Or what about my personal favorite, “full on pork indulgence?!” (I mean, what other site has that feature?!) Immaculate Infatuation lets you choose from their extensive list of occasions to find the restaurant that will best suit your needs.

Aside from this amazing function, Immaculate Infatuation posts a new review every day (Monday-Thursday), and on Fridays, celebrity guests write about their 5 favorite restaurants in New York. Recent “Friday Fives” include Robert Irvine, Mario Batali, and Piers Morgan.

Word has it that they will soon be expanding to cities outside of New York… so for our readers outside of the city, be on the lookout!

To become a Facebook friend, follow this link: http://www.facebook.com/immaculateinfatuation. My friend Hannah will love you forever if you do.