Browsing the list of Restaurant Week participants, I was pleased to find that there was another French bistro located quite near my hotel, and thus made a reservation for lunch at Artisanal Bistro, which, as its full name suggests, specialises in gourmet cheese and relaxed French food.
Exuding an even more classic bistro appearance than Les Halles, the waiters here are dressed in black waistcoats and white aprons, and there's a cheese counter where you can inspect their menagerie of weird and wonderful cheeses – all your bries and manchegos and pecorinos.
Although Artisanal's Restaurant Week menu did not extend to the weekend, they still offer a prix fixe lunch menu that was more or less the same as the Restaurant Week menu, though with some changes to dessert.
My starter was a basket of gougères, small airy cheese puffs that are an excellent party food for lots of people to share (though considering the effort required to bake them, perhaps they would be best confined to dinner parties). These were delightful; fluffy little balls of choux pastry that had a salty, cheesy tang, and the whole lot was quickly consumed.
I thought I would have a light lunch, since I was going to be having an early dinner with some family friends. Unfortunately, however, the chicken "tonnato" was surprisingly heavy, given the creamy, egg-based tuna mayonnaise that draped the chicken slices. Not a dish you would expect to find in a French bistro, this riff on a classic Italian dish was very similar to a Caesar salad with chicken, no cheese, more fish and arugula instead of romaine. The tangy capers, sour olives, salty anchovies and tuna made this a very rich dressing indeed, and the chicken was pretty much tasteless by comparison. Probably not one of my favourite Italian dishes, but no real complaints as far as execution was concerned (though of course, given that this dish requires pretty minimal cooking, you'd have to be doing really badly to go wrong).
Dessert was a crème brulee flavoured with orange zest, served with cinnamon wafers. I was quite curious as to why the cinnamon wafers were there, and what purpose they served, but I assume the thin, crunchy slightly spicy wafers were meant to contrast the rich custard. Although I usually dislike flavoured crème brulees, I thought the orange zest worked quite well here, with some of citric acidity cutting through the richness of the custard and the heavy mayonnaise of the last course. Oddly, despite it not being a very large portion, I did find it a struggle to get through, and knew I would be in trouble if dinner was going to be a huge affair.
Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar
2 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212 725 8585
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