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La Silhouette


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#1 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 04:15 PM

From a Le Bernardin alumnus, that rare specimen - a sleekly new modern French restaurant. I went for the snails.

Pink Pig.

#2 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 07:25 PM

Anybody else been here?

#3 Sneakeater

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 08:08 PM

I'm planning to go after Anything Goes next month.

Maybe I'll go after Carnegie Hall on Thursday.

(The world cares . . . . )
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#4 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 May 2011 - 08:42 PM

I care. I need feedback and I can't review Hotel Griffou every week. :lol:

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#5 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 08:46 PM

I didn't like La Silhouette very much.

I support the project: modern (non-bistro) French food at fairly affordable prices. But the food just doesn't make it. In fact, it makes me wonder whether modern (non-bistro) French food at affordable prices is even possible.

The dishes all read well on the menu. The problems fit into two categories: ingredients and execution.

Ingredients weren't bad. They just weren't of absolute top quality (which tells in this kind of food -- if only because you're used to top ingredients when eating it). Execution was a bigger problem.

Take my starter, pasta with rabbit (braised in Chablis) with sauteed mushrooms. This should not have been greasy. It should not have been gloppy. It should have been light, the flavors clear.

My main course -- pan-seared striped bass with peas, asparagus, mint, and vinegar jus -- was less bad. But it was in no way special. Now it isn't La Silhouette's fault that I ate here a few days after eating a bejeweled seafood dinner at Le Bernardin. But that's the universe it's operating in. No one expects four-star food at a moderately priced, unprepossessing place on a side-street in Hell's Kitchen. But if this kind of food doesn't have exactitude and cleanly balanced, surprising flavors, what does it have? It's not like bistro food, which gets along on sheer elemental satisfaction.

Which makes me wonder whether it's even possible to have satisfactory Modern French at the NYT two-star (i.e., below the NYT three-star) level. Maybe this kind of food needs the best ingredients and absolute precision in the kitchen to work at all. I guess Renee Pujol, in its final iteration, sort of pulled it off. And I suspect someone like Dave Santos could do it, if he wanted to veer French instead of Iberian. And, of course, there was Ssam Bar in its Golden Days, where -- at least as many of us understood it -- the lack of amenities permitted them to serve what was often three-star French-oriented food at everyday prices. I just find the failure of La Silhouette puzzling. I expected better.

Which leads me to something Steve R said last year that I disagreed with, but which never seemed worth bringing up. Ulterior Epicure had posted about one of those epic dinners he has, where either he or one of his dining companions is known to the house, and the restaurant does everything possible to fulfill their wants. Steve said that, reading u.e.'s post, he finally understood the appeal of NYT four-star dining, which had previously escaped him: it must be nice, he said, to be catered to so assiduously.

To me, though, that isn't the heart of what's so great, and important, about four-star dining. It's that you can't get food like that anywhere else. You can get food you like as much. If you don't care for complex dishes or careful technical precision -- and it's easy to understand why many people don't -- you can even get food you like more. But you can't get food that's comparable. The food is accompanied by, and in many way requires, the service; the service doesn't elevate the food.

Anway, here at La Silhouette, the service is kind of weird. As Wilfrid noted, it's too attentive and deferential. I'm sure the relative lack of custom (it was nearly empty at 10:00 on a Thursday) explains that.

I didn't want to not like this restaurant. To the contrary, I very much want to like it. I support its mission. But I regrettably can't recommend it.
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#6 Wilfrid

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:23 PM

Not a great location. I wonder if you would have liked the snail dish. The snails were not the best, but good enough, and I thought it was well executed. Next review will be a slightly less ambitious French-ish place, but not a classic bistro either. We'll see.

#7 Suzanne F

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 09:38 PM

That is some challenge! I have to try this place, and will next week. We'll see. :unsure:

ETA: Going next Friday after St. Paul Chamber Orchestra w/Dawn Upshaw at Carnegie.

I don't want to seem obsessed with this, but . . . -- Sneakeater, August 13, 2014

 

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#8 Wilfrid

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Posted 06 May 2011 - 11:15 PM

Which makes me wonder whether it's even possible to have satisfactory Modern French at the NYT two-star (i.e., below the NYT three-star) level.


It just occurred to me that Allegretti was about the last really good attempt. Didn't last, did it?

#9 oakapple

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 02:35 PM


Which makes me wonder whether it's even possible to have satisfactory Modern French at the NYT two-star (i.e., below the NYT three-star) level.

It just occurred to me that Allegretti was about the last really good attempt. Didn't last, did it?

There are not many attempts to open such places, partly because of the perception that they're a hard sell in New York these days. As Allegretti is a sample size of one, it's hard to say whether the genre is flawed, his execution of it, the location, or some other factor.
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#10 Adrian

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 03:23 PM

I support the project: modern (non-bistro) French food at fairly affordable prices. But the food just doesn't make it. In fact, it makes me wonder whether modern (non-bistro) French food at affordable prices is even possible.


You really need to take a trip up to Montreal then. That kind of food is possible, but it takes some talent and, probably, a bit more effort than most chefs want to expend (especially when you can open up an Italian place at the same price point). It's not like complex food at that price point isn't possible; a quick comparison of online menus shows that La Silhouette isn't that much less expensive than Annisa, although it's more explicitly French.

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#11 Sneakeater

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 03:44 PM

Oh, wait. Annisa is a perfect example of a restaurant that sort of does this (although it isn't as French).

OK, then.
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#12 hcbk0702

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 03:46 PM

Annisa really is great.

#13 Orik

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 07:16 PM


I support the project: modern (non-bistro) French food at fairly affordable prices. But the food just doesn't make it. In fact, it makes me wonder whether modern (non-bistro) French food at affordable prices is even possible.


You really need to take a trip up to Montreal then. That kind of food is possible, but it takes some talent and, probably, a bit more effort than most chefs want to expend (especially when you can open up an Italian place at the same price point). It's not like complex food at that price point isn't possible; a quick comparison of online menus shows that La Silhouette isn't that much less expensive than Annisa, although it's more explicitly French.


It must be something about the language, otherwise it's hard to explain why in Montreal and France restaurants can run with so few employees compared to nyc, and without spending several $mm to even open.
I never said that

#14 Wilfrid

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Posted 07 May 2011 - 10:46 PM

There are not many attempts to open such places, partly because of the perception that they're a hard sell in New York these days. As Allegretti is a sample size of one, it's hard to say whether the genre is flawed, his execution of it, the location, or some other factor.


I think the sample is somewhat larger; I referred to Allegretti as the best recent example I could think of.

#15 oakapple

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Posted 08 May 2011 - 04:55 PM


There are not many attempts to open such places, partly because of the perception that they're a hard sell in New York these days. As Allegretti is a sample size of one, it's hard to say whether the genre is flawed, his execution of it, the location, or some other factor.

I think the sample is somewhat larger; I referred to Allegretti as the best recent example I could think of.

Not being argumentative, but . . . who else is in the sample?
Marc Shepherd
Editor, New York Journal