Monday, July 6, 2009
What better way to spend the 4th of July, America's Independence Day, than by going to a French restaurant? After all, France was a major reason why the Americans were able to win their independence from Britain. So, on Saturday I went to Alain Ducasse' New York restaurant, Adour.
Finding a parking space right outside the restaurant on 55th and 5th was a great start. The Bentley parked out front made me pause for a second and rethink my choice of restaurants. I decided to throw caution to the wind and take a chance. I opened the regal, black and gold doors for my fellow diners and we were graced with a marble entryway.
On the inside, Adour doesn't seem like much. I took a cursory glance around and besides the hundreds of bottles of wine sitting behind glass cabinets, there wasn't really much to look at. That is, until I noticed that the walls surrounding the dining room are all glass and etched with vines. It was clear that Ducasse had created a restaurant for wine lovers. Next the Maitre d' handed me the wine menu. I was extremely impressed. Not with the size of the menu, or the fact that there were bottles that only a few restaurants in the world would be able to get, wines like the elusive Beaucastel Hommage Jacques Perrin, but there were also fabulous bargains hidden inside the menu. I chose a 2006 Coudoulet de Beaucastel.
The food menu is equally impressive and prices fair for what it is. We ordered and within a few minutes they brought out bread and butter for the table. The butter was laced with truffles, but was rock hard and I had to move the knife through it very carefully so I didn't make a huge chink noise on the plate below and embarrass both myself and the other diners. The butter, of course, warmed up and I calmed myself. The Maitre d' brought out 3 small plates of Fish Sticks and Tartar Sauce and told us it was compliments of the chef. This was a completely foreign concept to me. Fish Sticks are not usually found on the menu of Michelin Starred restaurants, but what do I know. They turned out delicious. The Tartar Sauce was the best I've ever eaten. And believe me, I've eaten my fair share of Tartar Sauce.
Next were our appetizers. I had Sauteed Duck Foie Gras with Rhubarb Marmalade, Hearts of Peach Palm and Duck Jus. The Marmalade was the perfect accompaniment to the Foie Gras. The acid in the Marmalade evened out the intense, savory flavor in the Foie Gras and when I finished I felt like I could eat a dozen more. For my Main Course I had Roasted Rack of Elysian Field Lamb with Tender Young Vegetables and Navarin Jus. The meat was done to perfection. It was very flavorful, but could have used a little Reduction Sauce to give it that added layer of flavor. I couldn't help but think that Ducasse was catering to the US taste buds, which are inherently much more unimaginative and undereducated than the French. The Vegetables were, like Kate Moss, slim, gorgeous and out of control. For such tiny veggies they packed a punch.
Dessert was a tough choice, but I settled on the Cheese Plate as I often do. And I hoped the other diners would be kind enough to let me share theirs. My Cheese Plate was accompanied by a selection of Winter Condiments including Raisins and Salsa. The Cheeses were perfect. The Condiments were a nice added touch, which ultimately made the meal more enjoyable. The other desserts were equally good, if not better. The Sicilian Pistachio Souffle with Cherry/Griotte and Vanilla Ice Cream was downright brilliant. To finish we had Organic Coffee in individual French Presses and Petit Fours.
When the bill came I was elated. For three people it was $340 without tip and that includes the wine. A bargain considering last week the three of us ate a mediocre meal in Philadelphia, which cost about $100 more. Obviously, this is not an everyday, family restaurant where three people can eat for $60. No, this is a 2 Michelin Starred, Alain Ducasse restaurant and to get out of there for less than $500 was stunning.
Before we left I filled out the comment card and I stated one complaint, the food is fabulous, but it lacks the intensity of the Michelin Starred, French Restaurants in Europe. Maybe we Americans really can't handle the complex flavors of Reduction Sauce, or maybe we watch our weight too much to enjoy rich, creamy cheeses. Whatever the reason, I hope that Alain Ducasse sees my comments and makes his Sauces more intense and more powerful. If he does that I truly believe he's on his way to another 3 Michelin Stars with Adour.
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