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Jun 10, 2009 12:41 PM

Recipe, a new American bistro on the UWS

Recipe is that unlikely seed that blew from nowhere onto the arid pavement of a restaurant-saturated strip of Amsterdam, that somehow managed to sprout into something vibrant and delicious. In a time when there seem to be more restaurant deaths than births, this twenty-six seater bravely threw open its French doors to the city in May 2009. By all appearances, the city has come to it -- or at least enough of the city to create the feeling of bustle on a Tuesday night, one month after opening.

This narrow little new American restaurant is about the same size as Land Thai, which shares ownership, and is just a few doors down. The menu, presented like a folded business letter clipped with a miniature clothespin, is markedly ambitious. It is riddled with big words like "croustillant" and "concasse" and curious ingredients like violet mustard and ancho romesco. But it is, at heart, a comfort food menu based on old standards like beef carpaccio, mac & cheese, Cornish hen.

To start, we had (1) locally grown roasted beet salad with lolla rossa, goat cheese, toasted pecans and Banyuls vinaigrette and (2) pulled pork rillettes with haricots verts, garlic chips, shaved fennel and violet mustard. The mouthful of ingredients should tell you something about Recipe's aspirations. At first glance, after translation, these were simply a standard beet and green salad and a small pile of dressed pulled pork with green beans. But the quality of the ingredients was extraordinary. Baby beets, red and gold, were sweet and tender, tiny things that must've been a royal pain in the ars to peel, after roasting. The lolla rossa (it's just lettuce, folks) was tender and beautifully fresh, and very pretty. I have no idea whether the vinegar used was really the wonderful Banyuls since it was so well mixed into everything else, but the vinegar flavor was mild and pleasant, the salad well dressed.

Pork rillettes were slightly less to my taste. I liked that they included chunks of the "bark" of the pulled pork and some of the fat, for the textural contrast. But the shaved fennel (which I dearly love) was in short supply. Haricots verts were crisp and tender. Flavors were very muted. A touch of vinegar and wee sprinkle of sugar would've done wonders for the dish. Or at least more than a tiny smear on the plate of that violette mustard, which was too small an amount to taste properly.

Our main courses were (1) seared duck breast with wild mushrooms, baby turnips and blackberries, and (2) grilled hangar steak with baby zucchini, cipollini onion, haricots verts and ancho romesco. The duck breast (prepared medium rare) was brilliant. It was tender with a lovely crust and just enough fat, and it came in a beautifully made, nuanced jus. The mushrooms were tiny and popping with flavor. Turnips, again tiny, were cooked separately and added later, which ensured the integrity of the flavor in classic French style, but didn't allow for that turnipy goodness to infuse into the dish.

The grilled hangar steak, also medium rare, was covered in a low key ancho romesco. I loved the ancho romesco (ancho chiles and walnuts) and the steak, but as a matter of personal taste, I prefer that good meat come with fewer ancillary flavors. If you are the type who likes sauces and garnish on your steak, the slight chili fragrance and sweet/bitter walnut of the romesco did go well with the red meat. The hangar steak, as is typical of this cut, was more chewy than tender, but was very flavorful.

Since Recipe has not yet been granted a liquor license, we brought our own bottle of wine, which the bartender/waiter was kind enough to pour for us in square, stemless glasses (a trend I sort of hate, but understand to be code for "hip, relaxed restaurant").

Dessert was a pignoli tart with walnut crust, caramel, ganache, pignoli and sea salt, topped with mascarpone ice cream. I frankly found it a bit too busy and am not sure all the ingredients really came together as a coherent dessert. Individually, the separate parts were very good, though mascarpone flavors were muted and almost completely overwhelmed by all the other flavors on the plate. Sea salt was a bit too coarse and unevenly sprinkled.

Overall, though, this was a very, very nice effort by a place that has evidently received almost no press. The kitchen put a surprising amount of attention to detail into preparing the food, ingredients were clearly excellent. I'm not really sure which direction the menu wants to go with its facially familiar new American standards, but haute preparations and embellishments. It's attempting to straddle quite a few lines, there: between uptown and downtown, local and international, the new and classic. Perhaps it's a sign of the times that Recipe manages to mix it all together and do so gracefully.

Here's the menu (slightly different from the one we were handed at the restaurant): http://www.recipenyc.com/menu.html.

Shawn Paul Dalziel (formerly of Blue Water Grill) is the executive chef.

452 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10024

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  1. Thanks so much for this cimui! I live a block away and didn't even know about this! it sounds liek a great addition to the nabe!

    3 Replies
    1. re: kelea

      Kelea, my pleasure! This place is really easy to miss, actually. If I hadn't been looking for it, I probably wouldn't've really noticed it from the street, either. The sign is tiny and high up.

      1. re: cimui

        It'll get crowded now -- it was reviewed in today's NY Times. :) And great report - thanks.

        1. re: LNG212

          Oh, I didn't see that -- thanks!

          I like Julia Moskin's reviews. The bit about Manhattan honey is pretty entertaining. ;)


    2. Thanks for the great write up cimui! Enjoyed and avidly followed your China trip!

      1 Reply
      1. re: scoopG

        Gosh, that's so nice of you, Scoop. And I *always* enjoy and avidly follow your Chinatown (and other) writeups. You're a great writer (and a great eater).

      2. Here is the correct url for the menu.

        This url does not end with a period.

        1. I was fortunate to have brunch here yesterday! It was great. It took me over a month to walk two blocks to eat there but I'm glad i did. The place is so well-priced for brunch it's unbelievable. All egg dishes for $10.

          But I chose to go with the cocottes. If had the foie grad terrine with apricot compote. AMAZING!!! i was worried the compote would be too sweet but it was DELICIOUS!!!! with perfectly toasted bread. and the tomato and mozzie tart with black truffle oil. I'll be back soon!!

          Oh and don't forget the homecook chips!

          3 Replies
          1. re: kelea

            Thanks so much for the report, K! I've never made it down there for brunch (I have my brunch standards within a few sleepy shuffles of home) -- but that foie gras terrine sounds like something to go out of my way for.

            I love their house made chips, too! (And the house made pickles...)

            1. re: cimui

              We ate here last week and were very pleased - good rustic food - quality ingredients. We had the beet salad and the tomato tart - both good, nothing extraordinary, but tasted very fresh. For a main we shared the whole fish, which I believe was a durade - was great with a few summer vegetables scattered around - we like the veggies so much that we ordered a side of them as well. We brought our own bottle of wine, which is really great for now - I hope it takes while for their liquor license to come through, it makes it so much more affordable. I hope this place does well, it is a nice addition to the neighborhood.

              1. re: superfine

                nice report, superfine! was the dorade really big enough to share, though? i really like the food, but i could see some people complaining about the, er, european (i.e. smaller) portions. it's just the right amount for me -- if i stab my SO's hand with a fork to keep him away from my food. :)