Dinner at Lafayette
Andrew Carmellini's new French brasserie Lafayette finally opened for dinner service this week, and I stopped by the other day to see if it lived up to the hype. The food was good, and I appreciated Lafayette's distinctive take on classic French favorites, but overall I thought the meal was a 7+.
Why the 7+ rating? Objectively, no dish was all that delicious to me. Slightly inventive tweaks to familiar dishes didn't translate into delicious taste. We ordered the Mediterranean octopus for an appetizer, the linguine noir, the steak frites and a side of broccoli. I loved the linguine noir--the pasta was perfectly al dente and the squid-ink provided a nice brine-y flavor. The steak meat was good but overcooked and the herbs in the bernaise sauce were a little too intense. The broccoli was rather unremarkable. The diners next to us also liked the linguine and the duck, but weren't fans of the dorade.
There's also an in-house bakery that operates during the day, and we decided to order a butterscotch eclair and birthday cake macaron for dessert. Again, the flavors were interesting but not of a Lauduree or Maison Kayser caliber.
Like other Carmellini restaurants, this will be a trendy scenester spot where reservations are hard to come by. I personally think it's a bit overhyped, but the food was solid and I am intrigued enough to try some other items on the menu. There's no showstopper like the meatballs at A Voce or the ricotta at Locanda to nudge the rating to an 8 or a 9. I understand it's only the 1st week, so if other chowhounds try anything incredible I would love to know about it!
You can read a more in-depth review and see pictures in context here:
"Why the 7+ rating? Objectively, no dish was all that delicious to me."
I have to agree with this, especially since another newcomer nearby, Le Philosophe, has made a much stronger impression. Lafayette is very pleasant, nice room and service, but the butter lettuce salad, duck au poivre, and honey vacherin dessert that we tried were good but not all that memorable.
I went for lunch last week. Had one of the best burgers, I've had in years. It was the brisket burger, topped with raclette, and caramelized onions, on a toasted brioche roll. Cooked perfectly. (much better then the burgers I've had at DBGB, and the Dutch). I am still thinking about it. I also had the asparagus soup which was better then a similar soup I had at Balthazar, and a really good bloody mary. It too was perfect. My friend had the scallops, which were good but not out of the ordinary.
Just okay. Very disappointed. I would give it a 6.
The space is huge and glitzy.
The service was rushed and haphazard. A request for More bread and a glass of wine was forgotten. The hostesses wore fake smiles. The place was packed and it felt like it. A little bit of "Danny Meyer" here would be useful.
The food was strangely tasteless.
The foie gras was nice. The rhubarb was superfluous and hard.
The asparagus looked lovely on the plate and had no taste. The little pigs feet croutons could have been fried anything . Even the chopped egg with it was strangely tasteless. The Boston lettuce salad was very nice but did not need ham. The dressing was good. The appetizer potions were large.
My black pasta was just black. A little overlooked with no taste of the sea. An empty cockle sat on top of the pasta when it was served which signified how I felt about the dish and the carelessness of the kitchen.
The chocolate torte was good. The ginger ice cream was tasteless.
As much as I like Locanda Verde, this place needs some tweaking.
I would probably give it about a 7 as well. Everything was complete solid but nothing blew me away. I love the idea of the bakery and stopped to pick up some items on my way out. However when I got home I found that the cookie I asked for was not in the box. And somehow one piece of a loaf cake and 4 macaroons cost $16 which I think it overpriced. The lafayette was my favorite of the macaroons but they are certainly not on par with others like Lauduree to justify the price.
I would say the restaurant reminds me of Pastis and Balthazar. I know these are not recent French restaurants, but the whole high-end bistro atmosphere and food offerings were very similar, although Lafayette's flavors were more unique. The most recent french place I've been to is calliope, but its style of cooking isn't really traditional French cooking.
There were some hits and misses. I liked baked oysters "sargent", which were really juicy and tasty. Crab tartine was just OK and nothing to write home about.
I found their French pastries pretty solid, at least in New York standards (where fine French pastries are somehow very rare). No, they were not of Laduree or Pierre Herme caliber, but then Laduree or Pierre Herme pastries are not available in New York now (The only pastries that were comparable to them were those at now-closed Brasserie Pushkin. I keep my fingers crossed until Laduree opens a salon de the in SoHo soon). And the nice thing is, Lafayette's patisserie/ boulangerie is open till very late, like 11pm, which enables me to have some desserts there after dinner. And I am thankful for that.