|Courtesy of De Santos|
I have been invited to a press dinner at De Santos, a new American cuisine restaurant in the West Village. I was very excited as it was the first invitation of that sort and intimidated at the same time, not knowing how it would be and who would be there! Plenty of questions came through my head: how will it be? Who would be there? Can I stay true to myself judging a restaurant who, in fine, invites me?
The answer to the last question is yes! Restaurants need people to comment on them to improve and it is pretty courageous to invite critics and bloggers to review your restaurant! The only important thing I need to do is to honestly mention that I was invited in my post so you understand that the food served to me was probably more carefully prepared and the service would be on his toes as the wait staff knew why people at the table were doing there!
So, the dinner was at 7pm. As I always try to be on time, I came a bit early. I noticed in front of the restaurant a person talking photos with a small camera and immediately thought that it was one of the people invited. I later learnt that it was Marc Shepard whose blog, New York Journal, has been around for a while. I respectfully let him take his photo of the restaurant and then took mine.
I like the fact that the restaurant is in a townhouse. As I mentioned when going to Vetri in Philadelphia, it gives the impression to go a friend's place. The place was welcoming and bigger than what I expected: bar at the entrance, main dining room, then a second dining room next to a garden. The last intriguing room is a former speakeasy located downstairs, called the Janis room, used for private dinners and live performances. The name comes from Janis Joplin, one of the celebrities who lived in the building that is packed with memories, but hopefully no paranormal activity...
|Courtesy of De Santos|
We sat in the dining room on a large table. What was great was to put a face with a name like Malini from the Restaurant Fairy or Bradley from Amuse * Bouche, blogs that I read often!
Anyway, back to the restaurant! We had the chance to meet with the Executive Chef, Angel Vela who worked at Pastis and came on board to reinvent the menu. He told us that his inspiration was to create a simple and basic menu. Trust me, what we tasted was far from that!
So, it was time to start to try the food from De Santos! They handed out a menu composed of three appetizers and three entrees. Portions would be smaller to accommodate a tasting (I am relieved)!
Warning: as they dimmed the light and I never take photos with flash, the photos are not as clear as I would have liked. The actual dishes had vibrant colors...I may have to rethink my strategy moving forward...
We started of with the Tuna Tartare:
The tuna was sitting on avocado and had some soy ginger vinaigrette on it. I love the combination tuna / avocado: it gives some additional freshness to the dish and one complement very well the other! It was good, but I would have liked more acidity.
Then we got the Truffle Mac & Cheese:
Truffle Mac & Cheese is definitely a dish that appeals to people as it is an elevated version of a comforting food! This one was good: you could definitely taste the truffle and the bread crumbs added a nice crunchiness to the dish.
The last (!) Appetizer was the Beef Carpaccio:
The carpaccio was served with some homemade potato gnocchi and a truffle cream. This was my favorite appetizer! The gnocchi were light and not potato-y. The sauce was also light and tasty. Loved it!
For the first entree, we got a Grilled Ribeye Steak:
The steak came with roasted potatoes and haricot verts. I loved the steak: it was cooked medium rare and had a perfect char. I was really surprised as I typically would never order steak in a restaurant other than a steakhouse! What I did not like however were the haricot verts, but I guess it is a question of taste: in France, we would cook them longer, making them soft and the taste is slightly different. These were slightly cooked and crunchy, but had an off taste for me. Having just the potatoes would have been perfect!
The second entree was the Scallops:
They were served with a wild mushroom risotto and the garnish was parsnip chips. When I saw the dish, I thought it would be the perfect dish for Gordon Ramsey to review as in his show, Hell's Kitchen, people always screw up on the scallops or on the risotto! Serving the two together was a great idea, although I loved the risotto that was cream with a bit of crunch and very tasty, I did not like the scallops that were a bit rubbery and very salty. However, the surprise was the parsnip chips that were fantastic! The scallops would have been better, it would have been a killer dish!
The last entree was the rack of lamb:
If you follow this blog, you now know that I love lamb. So I was excited to try that dish. The sides were a potato au gratin and a goat cheese salad. The potato au gratin were similar to the gratin Dauphinois that you can eat in France, where potatoes are thinly sliced and layered. It was perfectly cooked and seasoned. I also liked the salad that added some freshness to the dish and a Mediterranean flair. But, the main focus of the dish was the lamb: it was perfectly cooked for me, meaning medium rare, and juicy. They removed the fat and meat from the bone (frenched it), but I could taste a bit of the grilled fat that has some crispiness but also a delicious taste.
Last came the desserts. At that point, I started to be a bit full, but could not resist...The first desserts was a Dulce de Leche crepe:
This crepe was fabulous! Thin and soft at the same time and not too sweet. I devoured it!
The second dessert was a banana cobbler. The photo is not that great so I will not publish it. It was good, but not as good as the crepe!
So, I had a great dinner there! Not everything was perfect, but it all depends on anybody's taste! I would definitely go back. They have a nice menu that is more for carnivores and features a lot of classic dishes that have been elevated for fine dining.
Enjoy (I did)!