Bâtard

239 West Broadway New York, NY 10013(212) 219-2777batardtribeca.com

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While Batard is French by name, and European by description, the chef is more specifically Austrian and therefore so goes the cuisine, marked by certain dishes such as the off-menu schnitzel and the sizeable number of Austrian wines on the list.

Upon entering, you will be pleasantly surprised by the clean, elegant décor, especially after having seen the rather unassuming façade as you approached. The other surprise you are likely to notice is unfortunately unpleasant. The noise level is quite extreme, which takes a hair away from the romantic setting when you have to shout at your loved one the entire night. #acousticfail

Back on the plus side, the service was very good, without an ounce of pretense from host, to manager, to sommelier to waitress. Now on to the food!

Getting off to a rocky start, I was a bit surprised that there was no amuse bouche at such a high-end restaurant. To be fair, this is not the rocky part, but lumpy for certain. Where it got rocky for me was on the starters. The tete de cochon (pigs head) came as a strong recommendation from our server who made it sound far more interesting than it really was, basically a pork croquette topped with lard and placed over a kohlrabi slaw. The other was the lobster with avocado, fava beans and jicama. It was definitely the better of the two, but nothing I would ever strongly recommend.

Come round two, however, Batard served up a pair of knockouts. The first being the English pea tortellini in a pesto sauce with burrata broken up in such a unique way it almost tasted like ricotta. And the other knockout was the veal tenderloin. So tender you don’t even need teeth to chew it. It just melts in your mouth. And while that alone is noteworthy, the rest of the preparation was equally stupendous. They wrap the veal in a thin, flaky pastry and serve it next to a phenomenal grilled sweetbread and trumpet mushroom, which, upon request, they then douse in a veal jus that’s so sinful you’d have to be an asshole to pass it up. After all, the baby cow’s already dead. Might as well commit.

Come dessert I had my heart set on the caramelized milk bread with brown butter ice cream, having seen a picture (above) of it prior to dining here. But the dessert that stole my heart was the chocolate torte with tiny hazelnut semifreddos- so much better than the milk bread it tasted more like milk toast by comparison to the torte.

So while not entirely flawless, the highs at Batard are such that I can completely understand the hype. And whether or not it wins the James Beard for best new restaurant, it will most certainly be taking home two Ultimates, for veal and chocolate torte.

4 teeth

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The Ultimate Schnitzel

chicken-schnitzel

The Rumpus Room – Milwaukee, WI

Truth be told, I tend to find the high water mark for schnitzel rather low. I mean, even great schnitzel is only just “good” by comparison to so many other dishes I’d rather have. But that was until I ate at the Rumpus Room. They showed me the light. And this is how they did it.

First, they start with a pork-based schnitzel as opposed to veal, which I don’t think made the difference and if anything added to the level of difficulty, because veal usually trumps pork in my book. But I do believe it is local, hormone/antibiotic free pork, which does make a difference.

Then, they obviously bread and fry the thing, but the breading they use seems to be pretty standard as schnitzels go. What isn’t standard is how moist it turns out. And how they top it, with a mound of spicy arugula, a local aged gouda and a farm fresh, sunny-side egg, all culminating in a perfect storm of schnitzel bliss.

Edi & The Wolf – New York, NY

What makes this schnitzel sing isn’t the schnitzel itself, it’s the accoutrements that surround it. A sweet lingonberry jam, a refreshing cucumber slaw and a creamy, mustardy potato salad that when paired with a bite of the heritage pig schnitzel or any sub-combination thereof, you are met with a complexity of flavors often woefully absent from the realm of schnitzel.

Seasonal

132 W 58th St. New York, NY 10019(212) 957-5550seasonalnyc.com

Postcard28-8

While Seasonal is not a runaway success and there are many misses to be had on the menu, the highs are so very high that it’s hard to give it just 3 knives.

First off, the amuse bouche was quite good. A creamy truffle soup that even a Soup Nazi could envy.

The breads, however, were a touch on the dry side- but the spreads they served them with made up for it. One red pepper, one green olive, both delicious.

For the apps, please, please, please listen to me on this one. The sweetbreads are INCREDIBLE! Forget that they are glands for just a second and appreciate them for their complex, sweet- almost fried oyster-like brilliance. It far surpassed every other app on the table, including the lobster with poached egg, which only wishes it could die a quick death and be reincarnated as this sweetbread dish.

As for entrees, the schnitzel comes just like it does at Edi & the Wolf, which is very good, but if you’ve had it there, I urge you to forgo it for the Skate. Yes, fish. Not a big “Austrian” dish, but WOW was it amazing! Layered with rich flavors worthy of a red meat dish.

As for the veal cheeks with spaetzle- skip it. It was the weakest entree at the table.

And as for dessert, while the strudel is good, it pales in comparison to Peter Luger’s, which is easily the best apple strudel in the city. That said, the apple pancakes were very good and the far better choice of the two.

As for service, I thought they were quite good. Friendly and attentive.

Decor is also nice, clean and simple- but it’s the layout itself that is kind of a bummer. First, the place is very narrow and when coupled with a long bar that is probably too big for the space it literally makes it so that there really isn’t a truly “nice” table in the entire restaurant. Even the room in the back is windowless and almost claustrophobic.  Fortunately we were with good company and we weren’t facing the bar, but the fact remains we were basically sitting right on top of it..

So, despite Seasonal’s shortcomings, its longcomings? make it definitely worth a visit. Especially if you’re seeing a show in midtown.

4 teeth