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Montrachet and La Caravelle

j
judith Mar 20, 1999 07:47 AM

Would appreciate comments re your experience re food,
service, decor at these restsaurants - if you have
eaten at both and had to choose between them which
would you choose for anniversary celebration?

  1. w
    Wonki Kim Mar 22, 1999 11:05 AM

    Judith,

    I have been to both, and personally, I would choose
    Montrachet, but we're different people and what I like
    you might not, and what you like, I might not, etc., so
    I'll tell you what I thought of both and my reasons for
    doing so and you can take it from there.

    Montrachet:

    I love this place, although I've only been there for
    lunch and not for dinner. However, I liked it so much
    after the first time that I went back three or four
    more times that same summer. In my humble opinion,
    definitely one of the best restaurants downtown near
    the financial district (along with nobu and bouley
    bakery) and one of my favorites in the city. The decor
    is nice, clean, new, cozy, wood paneling, more modern
    than la caravelle, noise level not too bad. The food
    is outstanding. In particular, they do fish very well
    there. I had one dish, chilean sea bass, which is
    definitely one of the best dishes I've ever had. The
    fish was cooked perfectly; it practically melted in my
    mouth like butter. And the beans and greens that it
    was paired with accompanied it to perfection. A truly
    unforgettable dish. I practically licked the plate
    clean. They also have one of the best warm chocolate
    tortes in the city, and as i'm sure you know,
    practically every restaurant in the city has one
    nowadays. Service was good and they supposedly have
    the best wine list in the city according to wine
    spectator (since it was lunch i wasn't able to verify
    firsthand). I very simply love montrachet.

    La Caravelle.

    Let me start by saying that I am not a huge fan of
    classic French cuisine, and La Caravelle is very
    classic French. The decor is nice, very bright and
    very pastel, lots of pinks and light greens. It's one
    of those places where they seat couples side by side
    against the wall, so everyone is looking out into the
    room, which is a little odd because you can see
    everyone and it seems like everyone's watching you as
    well. nevertheless, it's nice if you're with your
    significant other since you can hold hands and do that
    sort of stuff, and i'm assuming you will since it's
    your anniversary. The food, while very good, just did
    nothing to excite me. But again, let me say that I'm
    not a huge fan of classic French cuisine. I prefer
    food with a little more sass, a little more boldness,
    different flavors that come together in your mouth and
    make you say "wow, now that's different, but it works"
    instead of dover sole, which although good, ain't that
    much different than dover sole at any other french
    place. that same goes for atmosphere as well. to me,
    all those classic french places are just a little too
    uptight; you have to wear a jacket, everyone inside is
    white and over 70 and you just feel like if you don't
    use the right fork the whole place will stop, look at
    you and turn up their noses. i just can't get
    comfortable in a place like that. but like i said,
    that's just me; to me, la caravelle, la cote basque, la
    reserve, they're all the same, same food, same
    atmosphere. i prefer the montrachets, the aureoles,
    and the bouley bakery's of the world. places where
    there's a little more life, both in the room and on the
    plate. and to top it off, you're likely to spend a lot
    more dough at la caravelle than at montrachet. i don't
    mind spending a lot of money if the food is worth it,
    but if it's not, it just leaves a bad taste in your
    mouth. montrachet is worth it; la caravelle is not.

    i guess my opinions are a little strong, so let me
    temper them a bit. la caravelle is still a very good
    restaurant, as are la cote basque and la reserve. the
    food is certainly above average and service and decor
    are all pleasant. my girlfriend likes la caravelle a
    lot. it's one of her favorite places. if you like
    classic French cuisine, la caravelle is for you.

    and if you're over 70 and white, i certainly didn't
    mean to offend you or anybody else for that matter,
    it's just that i'm asian and under 30, so i tend to
    feel a little weird at places like that. and this is
    not to say that montrachet is some hip happening night
    spot like asia de cuba or something like that. it's
    still very conservative, just not as uptight.

    well, that's my take on things. so, i guess, as far as
    decor and atmosphere go, which you prefer would depend
    on the type of person you are. as far as food, though,
    hands down i think montrachet has the better food.
    good luck, and to be honest, despite my personal bias,
    i don't think you can go wrong either way; there are
    certainly worse restaurants to have to choose from.
    hope i was helpful, and let me know what you think.
    also, feel free to ask me more specific questions if
    you wish.

    wonki kim

    12 Replies
    1. re: Wonki Kim
      j
      Judith Mar 26, 1999 10:30 AM

      Kim - thanks for your wonderful, detailed response - I will get back to you after our meal - Judith

      1. re: Wonki Kim
        j
        judith Apr 16, 1999 04:54 PM

        Sorry to be so remiss in getting back to you, Kim, but- wanted to let you know we really enjoyed Montrachet so thank you. Also, we ended up dining at Union Pacific (based on your recommendation), which was wonderful as well.

        Am devastated that Ruth Reichl is gone. Will really miss her.

        1. re: judith
          w
          wonki Apr 20, 1999 12:06 PM

          judith,

          hey, i was wondering what happened to you. i thought
          maybe you hated all the places i touted and was
          renouncing chowhound forever. glad you liked both
          montrachet and union pacific. they're both really
          among my favorites. now you have to try tabla. :-)

          yeah, it's a shame ruth reichl has to go, but maybe her
          replacements will be good. give them a chance.

          wonki

          1. re: wonki
            p
            Pat Hammond Apr 20, 1999 12:25 PM

            Hey Wonki: I have a reservation at Tabla in May. Did
            you have any dishes with tapioca in the preparation?
            Also I visit in your neighborhood (E.77th). Have you
            yet tried the rib joint in that area that you
            mentioned a while back? I have kept your posts of
            other offerings so maybe we'll order in one evening.
            Do you ever shop at Citarella? Do you know if they
            have razor clams yet? Thanks a lot. pat

            1. re: Pat Hammond
              w
              wonki Apr 21, 1999 11:31 AM

              hey pat, how are you? happy for you that you've got a
              spot at tabla. wish you could take me with you. ;-)
              i don't actually recall if i had anything with tapioca,
              though i don't think so. i remember the goan spiced
              crabcake being excellent as an appetizer. my
              girlfriend had the duck samosa which was good though
              not amazing. i believe i had the rice crusted bass for
              an entree which was very good, but i can't remember
              what my girlfriend had. i think you should definitely
              go with a chardonnay or a white wine with dinner. i
              believe we got a sonoma-cutrer which was both
              reasonably priced (probably in the $40 dollar range or
              so) and went well with the food (although my one knock
              on the place is the wine "glasses" which looked more
              like candleholders). as far as the vanilla bean kulfi,
              i have to admit i thought it was a little weird at
              first since it was so thick, but then the vanilla
              flavor really comes through and the thickness isn't as
              synthetic as it first may feel. basically, don't
              expect to get your socks knocked off at first, rather,
              expect to be pleasantly and increasingly surprised.

              haven't had the ribs at pret a porter yet. i promise i
              will soon and will leave a post about it.

              sorry, don't shop at citarella. you can probably tell
              i eat out just about every meal and although i would
              love to learn how to cook well, i don't really have the
              time. that will be something for the future. in the
              meantime, too many places to try in new york without
              having to do the dishes.

              happy eating!

              wonki

              1. re: wonki
                p
                pat hammond Apr 21, 1999 01:03 PM

                Thanks very much, Wonki. I can hardly wait. I plan to
                ask if their current menu has any offerings with
                tapioca. I'm so intrigued by the idea of savory food
                with tapioca and would like to try working with it
                myself. I DO cook a lot. pat

            2. re: wonki
              s
              Susan T. Apr 20, 1999 06:24 PM

              Hi, Wonki. I agree with you on Tabla! I ate there
              recently and it was GOOOOD. The beautiful, cheerful
              room & the friendly service were nice, too. I had the
              foie gras appetizer (with hazlenuts & sunflower
              sprouts) & the mushroom ragout as an entree. Liked 'em
              both. I meant to get something with tapioca but forgot
              after the third glass of chardonnay. Oh, well. I had
              that vanilla kulfi for dessert, expecting to have my
              socks knocked off. That didn't happen, though it was
              tasty. (The rhubarb/strawberry/vanilla creme next door
              at 11 Madison was better.) Susan

              1. re: Susan T.
                w
                wonki Apr 21, 1999 11:42 AM

                hey susan, glad you liked tabla, sorry you weren't
                crazy about the kulfi. i think food is like the
                movies: you can't expect too much or chances are
                you're going to be disappointed, but if you don't
                expect a lot, chances are you'll be pleasantly
                surprised.

          2. re: Wonki Kim
            a
            Adlai Apr 21, 1999 08:34 AM

            WOW, Wonki, this was a GREAT review! Although I'm white
            and waaay under 70, I like the "stuffy" classic french
            restaurants now and again. I will be in NY again in
            June and having never been to either of these, will
            definitely make a point now of going to one or both.
            How can I not after reading this? Does the NY Times
            know about you yet? You could give Ruth or her
            replacement a run for their money, I'd suppose.

            Thanks, again, and I look forward to reading more from
            you.

            1. re: Adlai
              w
              wonki Apr 21, 1999 11:39 AM

              WOW, adlai, i'm crazily flattered that you would say
              something like that (but you are the second person to
              do so so maybe there might be some truth to it . . .
              yeah right, i could only wish :-) ). well, glad you
              liked my review. some of my other picks: union
              pacific, tabla, aureole (but bring extra dough to
              really enjoy this one). let me know how it goes. take
              care.

              wonki

              1. re: wonki
                a
                Adlai Apr 21, 1999 11:53 AM

                Wonki - I ate at Union Pacific last year and it was one
                of the best meals I've had in a long time anywhere.
                Also been to Aureole several times, although I felt the
                last 2 visits were not up to par. Tabla is on my
                ever-growing list, as is Patria, and now Montrachet and
                La Caravelle are there, too.

                Thanks, and I look forward to more of your reviews...

                Adlai

                1. re: Adlai
                  w
                  wonki Sep 18, 1999 05:24 PM

                  adlai,

                  don't know if you're still around, but thought i'd
                  check up on you. you're right about aureole, that
                  place has definitely slipped of late. unfortunately,
                  so has montrachet. went there the other night and was
                  rather disappointed, especially with the entrees. they
                  had an excellent seared foie gras appetizer, however,
                  on top of a potato pancake with figs and a port wine
                  sauce. unbelievable. entrees are not nearly as
                  sophisticated as the apps. whatever you do, don't get
                  the chicken, and the sweetbreads were only so-so. gone
                  is the chilean sea bass with white beans. so is the
                  old chef, who left for the tonic (a better bet than
                  here for now). the new chef is much more strictly
                  french, and frankly, a bit boring. check out the tonic
                  or veritas (search for my review on this site). and
                  definitely if you have the inclination, le bernardin
                  for some excellent french seafood without the stuffy
                  atmosphere. catch you later.

                  wonki

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