French dinner at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York | I just want to eat!

Friday, February 21, 2014

French dinner at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

image of Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

When I received an invite for a press dinner at Sel et Poivre, a French bistro on the Upper East Side, I was very excited...and curious. Yes, curious because there are so many restaurants claiming to serve French cuisine in the City, when in fact their menu is at most inspired. Not that it is bad, but there are not that many places that serve classic French dishes besides the usual steak frites or the quiche Lorraine. 
image of Eiffel tower at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York image of photos at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Sel et Poivre (salt and pepper in English) has been opened since 1989 and is currently owned by husband and wife, Pamela and Christian Schienle. I got to meet with Christian and really enjoyed talking to him. I did not get a chance to meet Pamela as they try to work separately, a good way to keep the peace in their marriage! 

Know that Christian, who is the Executive Chef and wine director is not French. So was I again in a bad copycat restaurant? I would know soon enough! 

The place first: I was curious to know if there was any story behind the name of the restaurant. 
image of salt and pepper at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Christian said that there was no particular meaning, but it was a way to pair the white and the black of the salt and pepper with the back and white photos that are all over the walls. I liked these photos, the lack of color giving a nice atmosphere to the place. They represent different places in the world, Paris of course, as well as personal photos such as Pamela and Christian's wedding. 
image of dining room at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

As soon as you enter, you feel like you are transported in a French restaurant in France. Normally, they have couple of tables outside, but, with this weather, needless to say that it was not setup! Near the entrance, are few tables, surrounding the bar; further, is the main dining room with its leather and fabric-upholstered banquettes, antique sconces, wood floors and classic mirrors that give a dimension to the room.
image of dining room at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

As we were waiting for other guests to arrive, they offered me a glass of wine. Looking at the extensive wine list, I noticed that they serve wines from many countries, not only France. But hey, I had to stay true to what I was looking to experience and ordered a fantastic glass of Brouilly 2005 - Domaine Du Moulin-Favre (Beaujolais).
image of glass of Brouilly at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

If you like red wine, this is definitely a good choice.

image of glass of Brouilly at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Then, as guests arrived, we sat at our table where the tasting menu was printed. Not that their menu was completely unknown to me: before going to any restaurant, I check the menu. So did I for Sel et Poivre, the day before, drooling over the escargots, frog legs, liver and kidneys. And I smiled when reading what would be served to us...Let's see why. 

The first dish was a celery remoulade with red beets. 
image of celery remoulade at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

This was, as for the other dishes, a tasting portion. 
image of celery remoulade at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

It was perfect with a piece of baguette, that is an essential element of a French meal: you cannot serve a meal in France without some bread.
image of baguette at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

The second dish was not a dish I would have associated to French cuisine: red pepper bisque. 
image of red pepper bisque at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

It had a bright red color and a nice smell that definitely made me want to try it. It was not a thick bisque as not made with cream, but with a potato broth, making it a lighter and healthier version. I loved the taste of red pepper it had, keeping it the star of the dish as not being diluted in the broth.

Then came a wild striped sea bass with artichoke hearts, fennel and black olive, drizzled in some lemon oil.
image of striped sea bass at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

This was a very nice dish, presentation wise and taste wise. The fish was perfectly cooked, flakey and moist, with a slightly crispy skin on top. I liked that they served it with tomatoes, olives, arugula, fennel and artichokes, the last two bringing their own particular flavors, allowing each bite to be unique.

image of striped sea bass at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Then, we got a canard a l'orange or duck a l'orange.
image of canard a l'orange at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

It was served with wild rice and spinach. This is also a classic French dish. However, whenever I had it, it was with a magret de canard rather than the way it was served that was close to a confit, although less (over) cooked and less salty. It was good though, but I wish there was more sauce.

After that was the steak (sirloin) with sauce au Roquefort and sauce au Poivre.
image of sirloin steak at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Served with fries, this is definitely a classic, although not that many people tried steak with a Roquefort sauce.
image of roquefort sauce at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Whenever I have some steak leftover, I cook it in sour cream and blue cheese. It is rich...but delicious.

The pepper sauce was also very good, not being too peppery, although I admit that the cracked pepper on top tickled my throat at some point!
image of sauce au poivre at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

I really liked the steak (cooked medium and tender with a nice char) and the sauces that were also perfect with the fries, or a piece of bread. 
image of french fries at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Then was the long awaited veal kidneys!
image of veal kidneys at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

I was so happy to see it coming. I know that some people consider this a creepy meat, but for me it is a delicacy. I admit that I could not resist going for a second....It was served with a fantastic mustard sauce, boiled potatoes and spinach.
image of veal kidneys at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

The main difficulty with kidneys is to clean them and these were perfect.

But it did not stop there! When Christian realized that the table was ready for this type of dish, he decided to add to the tasting the calf liver. It was served with a traditional Lyonnaise sauce that was scrumptious. 
image of calf liver at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

The dish was composed of onions, mashed potatoes and broccoli. Although the liver was a bit gamey, it was delicious, the dish not being too heavy and the onions adding a nice sweetness. 

After this feast, believe it or not but we still had some space for dessert. The first one was the chocolate lava cake, served with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. 
image of chocolate lava cake at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Homemade, it was perfectly cooked, the center being runny. I also appreciated the fact that it was not too sweet, although the cream and ice cream were perfect to neutralize any sweetness that persisted. 
image of chocolate lava cake at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

The second dessert was a vanilla creme brûlée. 
image of creme brulee at Sel et Poivre on the Upper East Side, NYC, New York

Pretty classic, it was well set, with a nice torched sugar layer on top. 

I really liked my dinner at Sel et Poivre: the food was delicious and, although a bit elevated, stayed true to traditional French cuisine, bringing me back to France for the evening. Whether or not you are adventurous, this is definitely the place to go to! Chapeau!

Enjoy (I did)!

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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!

Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own! 
Restaurant Information

* Restaurant Name
Sel & Poivre
* Overall
★★★☆☆
* Neighborhood / Cuisine
Upper East Side / Mediterranean / French
* Street Address
853 Lexington Ave. (Between 64th St. & 65th St.), New York, NY 10065
* Phone
(212) 517-5780

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