Rouge et Blanc
Posted 10 May 2011 - 07:09 PM
It's not a stunning reconceptualization of a cuisine, the way Jean Georges was when both it and its menu were new. It's nothing that fancy. It's just a nice, lower-end restaurant with interesting food. But how many of THOSE open these days?
The food concept is purportedly "French-Vietnamese", but Tien Ho doesn't have to call his lawyers. I didn't taste any fish sauce in any of the dishes I had, and -- other than the appearance of a spring or summer roll on the apps list -- if I hadn't known from advance reading that there were supposed to be Vietnamese accents here, I'd never have been able to tell. It's "restaurant food": stuff you might not come up with yourself at home, here at the lower end of the scale in terms of ambition, although very very well realized. The chef, Matt Rojas, has EMP, Degustation, and one of the many Nobus on his resume.
The room is exceptionally appealing. If you look hard, you can see they're going, to some extent, for a French Colonial Vietnamese look, but (presumably) lack of funds kept them from turning it into Disneyland, as at (say) Spice Market. It's a nice, funky, Soho/Village boit: a pleasure to be in.
I started with mushed-up trout on a toast with avocados mushed in, topped with smoked trout roe. Maybe if I repeated a verb other than "mushed", it would sound like the appealing treat it was. Now there's nothing startlingly new or luxe about this dish -- but it's not on every menu, either. It's a nice, tasteful combination that works.
I was sort of at war with myself on my main dish. The protein accompanied by ramps, peas, and morels was a braised pork belly. Like many here, I'm sort of boycotting pork belly at this point. But at this time of year, my viscera will not permit me to pass up a dish including three of my favorite seasonal ingredients (and when I don't listen to my viscera, they protest embarrassingly loudly). The pork belly was fine. The ramps, peas, and morels were ramps, peas, and morels. When do we get some shad around here?
This restaurant is co-run by an experienced sommelier (Thomas Cregan, who seems to run the front of the house). And the wine program is strong for a place of this size. Cregan doesn't go for the funky or overly off-beat, but his list is strong in solid well-priced Old World wines, the kind of stuff that fairly discerning people drink at home on weeknights. Neither the bottle nor the by-the-glass list is the kind where you have to struggle to find things that are both interesting and appropriately priced.
This is the kind of place that discerning diners always used to have a few of in their back pockets. Great for dates, great for last-minute weeknight meals (until it gets reviewed more!), great for nights out for the fairly impecunious (or people who just don't feel like spending a mint). The kind of place that out-of-town visitors think we all know a million of. But, between you and me, there aren't many of these places any more. At least that I know of. They've been replaced by a new esthetic. Rouge et Blanc isn't any kind of reactionary throw-back. It's just the kind of place we don't see enough of these days.
Posted 10 May 2011 - 07:27 PM
Unfortunately for them, I think the standard review period has passed, so it will have to depend mainly on word of mouth.
This is the kind of place that discerning diners always used to have a few of in their back pockets. Great for dates, great for last-minute weeknight meals (until it gets reviewed more!)....
Editor, New York Journal
Posted 10 May 2011 - 07:28 PM
Posted 20 May 2011 - 06:54 PM
Started with their version of the "bone marrow & seafood" combo so prevalent these days. They use baby octopuses or some such as the sea food. The spice profile tips Asian. The spiced biscuit on which you're supposed to spread the marrow is delicious but too hard and stiff for the purpose.
Then the lamb ribs with roast eggplant and other stuff. Very good preparation.
This is not cooking of the utmost refinement (which is why it's in the "bistro" camp rather than the "Modern French" camp). But for what it is, it's imaginative, it's interesting, it's good.
I continue to recommend this place.
Posted 20 May 2011 - 08:52 PM
Imagine the excitement at The Times when Sifton reports
Mmmmmmmmpppphhhh mmmmmmmpppphhhhh Sifton spotted multiple times recently mmmmmppppphhhhh mmmmmmppppphhhhhh.
that he's spotted you multiple times recently.
Posted 22 May 2011 - 09:11 PM
I continue to recommend this place.
Oops, I forgot:
COMP DISCLOSURE: A glass of an obscure French red sparkler, which was a lot better (i.e., it had some acidity) than the sparkling Shiraz that used to charm so many of us at Ssam Bar.
Posted 23 May 2011 - 05:32 PM
My review is belatedly up at the Pink Pig, strongly endorsing your enthusiasm. This place deserves a much higher profile.
Posted 23 May 2011 - 06:36 PM
Posted 11 September 2011 - 02:35 PM
At 8:30, the rooms (front and back) were mostly full. They did turn a table next to us three (!) times while we were there--but that speaks more for the eating speed of the customers than any pushing on the part of staff. In fact, other than a wait for our wine at the beginning (because Paul was away from the table, and Tom was waiting for him to return), service timing was fine.
The wine in question is Domaine des 2 Anes Corbières Premiers Pas 2007, one of the cheaper selections available ($46) -- a little tannic on opening but it opened up pretty quickly. There might be better values on their list, but Paul does not think along those lines.
Vietnamese Sausage, Rice Noodle, Pistachios, Sweet Onion: Not so much "sausages"--that is, spiced ground meat in a casing--as spiced ground meat formed into a sausage shape, in this case around sticks of licorice (the actual plant). Very well balanced, with the meat flavor (pork) still coming through the herbs and seasonings, and the softish rice vermicelli contrasted by the crunch of the nuts. The onion was a purée under everything.
En Papillote: Forest Mushrooms, Soy Garlic Butter: A big winner. Mostly enoki, shiitake (very small caps), and chunks of oyster mushroom, plus a little maitake and one good-size morel. Not too buttery, not too garlicky, not too salty from the soy, and with an unexpected and very welcome big hit of lemon juice. This made us very happy.
Lamb Ribs: Mustard Marinated with Roasted Peppers, Eggplant Roti: The same that Sneak mentioned (great minds . . .). A fairly busy but quite pretty plate, also with a couple of husk cherries with the husks flipped back to look flower-like and tiny cylinders of quick-pickled cornichon-size peeled cucumber topped with sesame seeds. The lamb flavor was strong even against the mustard, and the meat extremely tender. "Roasted peppers" were exactly that: whole peppers, roasted; they looked like a type that could be incendiary, but were actually pretty mild. The eggplant was a whole small (3- to 4-inch long) slim one, roasted (maybe a little less than it should have been; still tasted a bit raw to me). The roti that came with was very buttery, too much so for Paul.
Creekstone Farms Skirt Steak, Maitake Ragout, Uni, Veal Jus, Sweet Potato: I was drawn to this by the mushrooms and the uni. The mushrooms worked perfectly with the meat; the uni, not so much, but it was good uni, fresh and not at all iodiney, and quite a bit of it. They did not ask how we wanted the meat done, which was fine, since Paul probably would have asked for it too rare for this cut. As it came out, it was perfect. The potatoes were both sweet (very small) and regular fingerling, very nice. Also splashes of a deep green purée; again, the plate was ultimately kind of busy, but not in a "let's throw on a lot of disparate elements" way. The chef's pedigree shows nicely. A side note for Sneak, related to the RedFarm thread: This is the only item on the menu that notes the provenance. Would people be afraid to order this item otherwise, or question its quality?
Profiteroles, Espresso Ice Cream, Cinnamon Hot Chocolate, Crème Fraîche: Just the one, split between the two of us. Three tiny cream puffs (not much more than 1 inch in diameter), filled with excellent ice cream, over which was poured a very strong chocolate sauce, way closer to the bitter end than the sweet, with a clearly discernible but not overpowering cinnamon hit. Having crème fraîche instead of whipped cream was a good contrast, taking another step away from too-sweet desserts. My kind of dessert.
Good espresso. Unfortunately for Paul, they said their delivery of decaf had not arrived.
I just wish they'd change the music; too loud by itself, although not so loud as to force people to shout. And pop stuff not to my taste (and you know what French pop is like ). But once we ate, it did kind of fade into the background.
ETA: BTW, one less restaurant on the block as mentioned by Wilfrid in his review: Salt is gone.
Something can be unique and still not be great. -- Lex, 13 July 2015 - 3:58 PM
notorious stickler -- NY Times
deeply annoying and nitpicking -- Molly O'Neill, One Big Table
Posted 17 October 2011 - 04:44 PM
(Thanks to Suzanne for initially pointing it out.)