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.
380 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.
PARIS SUGGESTIONS: WHERE TO FIND JULIA CHILD OLD SCHOOL ROMANCE THESE DAYS:
Chez Dumonet (Josephine)
117, rue du Cherche-Midi (6th)