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Posts Tagged ‘french cuisine’

Artisanal
2 Park Avenue (entrance on 32nd Street)
(212) 725-8585

This review is going to end on a negative note, but I actually do like Artisanal very much. It’s not exactly a beacon of innovation, but it does the classics very well…most of the time.

I dined there recently for a friend’s birthday and it was largely an enjoyable experience. The company was lovely and the food was tasty. The server was knowledgeable and everyone left full, happy, and sleepy, all the hallmarks of a good meal as far as I’m concerned.

In case you don’t know, Artisanal’s angle is cheese and lots of it. They have their own temperature and humidity controlled caves and refrigerators to age and store the over 60 varieties of cheese that they offer. Scanning the cheese menu can be a tad overwhelming if you want to try something new. (If you don’t, there’ll undoubtedly be something on the menu to suite your tastes.) Where to start?

The menu is divided into the different types of milk from which the cheeses come: sheep, goat, and cow. Under each cheese name is a brief description that is informative, but not really helpful, descriptions such as “earthy and deep” or “delicate and milky.” That all sounds delicious to me, so now what?

We consulted our waitress and since we were a large party she recommended the cheese, meat, and fruit platter that includes six different types of cheeses ranging from mild to stronger, prosciutto, soppressata, speck, dried fig and nut spread, grapes, and sliced apples. Among the cheeses were a Robiola made of cow and sheep’s milk, a Bleu d’Auverge, a Pecorino with truffles, and the rest I’ve forgotten. They were all delicious, but the Pecorino was mind blowing. The combination of the intense truffles and the cheesy, aged Pecorino took me right back to my time in Florence where I ate an inordinate amount of truffles with cheese/cream. I impolitely polished it off.

We also began with a basket of their gougeres, golf ball sized puffy cheese pastries made of Gruyere. One could easily pop a dozen of them without blinking, they’re so airy and light, nutty and salty.

As for the main entrees, the chicken cooked under a brick was absolutely phenomenal. A crispy, brown crust without a hint of fat underneath enrobes juicy meat. It’s served atop a pile of creamy mashed potatoes and a medley of vegetables, a singularly outstanding dish.

The steak frites is always a safe and savory bet. I consider the frites impressive in a city full of impressive frites.

I had the small “Artisanal Blend” fondue as my main. It was…a mistake. I failed to heed my sister’s warning that the fondue was too “wine-y” and “flavorless.” But there had been so much hype surrounding their fondue and their specialty is cheese and, and they’re French and, and I really, REALLY wanted to eat some good fondue. So I ordered the small one (for 1-3 people) which comes with cubes of bread and also ordered a side of kielbasa to dip. It was, well, wine-y and flavorless. I managed to choke down quite a bit, as an act of defiance, really. I was hellbent on ordering the fondue and GOSH DARN IT I was going to eat most of it! Matt tasted some. “Wow,” he said, “that is wine-y…um, it’s actually kind of gross.” I nodded slowly, as if considering his opinion, when, of course, I knew it was true and agreed.

I ended the meal with the cheesecake. Its pecan praline shortbread crust is out of this world. The cheese itself is light and fluffy without being cloyingly sweet. It’s served dotted with pralines and a swirl of caramel sauce. I’ve already decided to buy a whole one for Thanksgiving this year.

All in all, I’d recommend anyone going there, anyone who loves cheese, has a decently full wallet, and who isn’t hellbent on eating fondue.

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