Going to Sel et Poivre (salt and pepper in French) is so refreshing: there, you get not only to taste some great French cuisine, but the dining room is worked on by Chef Christian Schienle who prepares classic French bistro dishes, some of them with a refined flair. What amuses me is that Chef Schienle (that you can see on the photo above paying for parking) is not French, but succeeds to serve delicious dishes. To the point that I went twice this week: on Tuesday for a blog dinner and on Friday, simply because I wanted to try one of their specials only served that day: cassoulet.
I like the atmosphere of the restaurant and the charm that all the black and white photos on the wall give to the room. In fact, these photos are vacation photos, adding a personal touch to an intimate setting (this photo was taken earlier in the evening).
Food wise, it was fantastic and if you go there, you may want to wear stretch pants, because you will not want to stop eating, even if you are full...like I did! So here is what I got:
Episode 1 - Tuesday Blog Dinner:
Note that the portions below were tasting size, except for the soup, snails and desserts.
Wine: I went for a Beaujolais, Brouilly Bonne Neige, 2011 that was light and perfumed, perfect with the meal I was going to have.
Of course, the meal started off with some baguette that was served warm, with butter. Yes, you cannot have a French meal without bread.
Then, every year, during this period, they serve a game menu and so, some grilled venison sausage and a wild boar sausage. I think it is a good idea to propose some game as a special as not that common in restaurant, and, when well done, it can be fantastic.
Followed escargots. I was really looking forward to it, but was a little apprehensive because I went to few restaurants were they put too much of a twist into it, simply ruining the dish. No, these were the classic ones, served with a sauce made of butter, garlic and parsley, sauce so good that I dipped my bread into it...
The next dish is not what comes to mind when thinking about French cuisine. It was a red pepper bisque, perfect for the season. It was light and had just a tad of cream in it (it is a bisque), and you could definitely taste the red pepper.
After that was cod fish with creamy lentils. That dish was succulent! The fish was perfectly cooked, not dry and flakey. But then, the lentils were amazing, drenched in a cream made with mustard seeds and horseradish.
The last entree was also something I was looking forward to. It was a quail stuffed with goat cheese in a port wine reduction. I do not see quail that often on restaurant menus and sometimes, when I get it, it is overcooked and therefore dry. At Sel et Poivre, it was perfect and I was surprised how the combination between the quail and the cheese worked well.
Last was dessert, to finish this delicious meal on a high note. There was first a creme brûlée that was perfectly set:
And an Apricot crepe that was sublime, the crepe being well made.
So, it is discussing with Chef Schienle that I realized that he was serving cassoulet on Fridays and I persuaded Jodi to go back the same week to try it.
Episode 2 - The return
It is really rare that I go to the same restaurant twice in the same week, but I could not resist going back to Sel et Poivre. There were in fact two dishes I wanted to try:
The first one was the Terrine de Foie Gras with red wine grapes. I was really not disappointed, the foie gras being very good and well made.
The second one being the long awaited cassoulet, a comfort dish from the South of France made with beans and meat that are slow cooked. Everybody has its own variation and not that many restaurants in New York serve it. Chef Schienle prepares it with duck confit, garlic sausage and pork belly, adding a bit of tomato sauce for the reddish color. This was a delicious dish, very filling. The best meat was definitely the duck confit that was deliciously salty and had this flavorful taste.
Chef Schiene also offered to try their wild boar pate that was very good, dense with a delightful gamey flavor, so good that I did not leave an ounce on the plate (now you know why I mentioned the stretch pants before...).
Jodi was more reasonable than me and chose a salad composed of arugula, watercress, endive and roquefort:
and a cheese plate (not sure what all these cheese were...
Last was a tart tatin that was one of the best I had in New York: it was not too sweet and the apple was melting in my mouth.
With it, complimentary from the Chef, we got a glass of 2005 Domaine de Durban Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Rhone, France.
I should in fact mention that I also had a glass of Cote du Rhone reserve.
I was glad I had a little walk on the way home considering how much food I ate. See et Poivre is a great place and one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I definitely recommend it and, if you go, you will certainly enjoy the personality of the Chef that adds to the charming atmosphere of the restaurant.
Enjoy (I did)!
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