Recette

328 W 12th St. New York, NY 10014(212) 414-3000recettenyc.com

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I have been wanting to try this place for a while now, but after hearing that it is the sister restaurant to The Gander, my eagerness waned. Perhaps a blessing in disguise though, because low expectations are always easier to hurdle, and Recette most certainly sailed over them.

The space is intimate, which is sort of the restaurant version of “cozy” in NYC apartment listings, meaning “small.” But it’s walled with beautiful divided light windows, so it feels more open. As for the décor itself, apart from the windows it’s not very memorable.

The service and meal however, left quite the impression. Our waiter managing to strike that perfect balance between attentive, professional and down to earth.

Unfortunately the wine list was quite the opposite of down to earth, priced in a much higher stratosphere with only a very small handful of options below a C-note. Luckily the one I chose was not too crazy and not too shabby, a 2006 Barolo priced right on the threshold.

Things began with the bone marrow toast, complemented by trout roe to give it a nice burst of saltiness amidst the richiness. And while it was good, it also felt reminiscent of so many dishes at The Gander. Good, but not quite great.

But as regret started to seep in, that’s when the tide turned, and my use of an oceanic term was purposeful, because the next two dishes not only came from the sea, they are both Ultimates. The first being the best sashimi I’ve ever had. Incredibly fresh red snapper adorned with oyster crisps and chili peppers packing more heat than Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. The other Ultimate came in the form of the most ridiculously creamy langoustines I’ve ever had. So buttery soft, they were practically worth starting a new religion over. And you really didn’t need any of the surrounding elements, like the pork croquette and the flan. They were life-changing-awesome all by themselves.

After that, came the spaghetti with sweet shrimp and sea urchin, which was also good, but was doomed from the get-go. First because it’s been touted as one of the best pasta dishes in the city, and it’s not. And second, because after the previous two dishes, it was an impossible act to follow.

And closing out the “small plates” was the pork belly. Now, I’m not sure if they were going after irony here, but this was easily the biggest portion of pork belly I’ve ever been served in my life. It was the size of a brick and could handily serve four ravenous wolves. And while that may sound awesome, truth be told it was a bit too massive making the harissa to belly ratio a bit anemic. Fortunately the maple glaze carried it, but nailed it was not.

Sadly, things continued on the downward spiral through dessert. The highly recommended s’more, while good, fell a chasm short of the ones at Marc Forgione and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. And the apple upside down cake should remain that way, face down in shame. Had two bites and done. The best of the lot was actually the free dessert that came with the check, a devil’s food cookie with a hint of chili. My advice, forgo the desserts and put that money into the wine.

So a very accurate Yelp rating for once, 3.5 stars. But since I don’t do halves, I’m going 4 knives. After all, they did have two Ultimates.

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ABC Cocina

38 E 19th St. New York, NY 10003(212) 677-2233 abccocinanyc.com

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If you’ve ever been to ABC Kitchen then you’ve seen how great Jean-Georges is with décor. And I’m guessing he found it so nice he used it twice, Cocina is a dead ringer.

And speaking of the dead, the irony of Cocina is that it’s sitting atop the gravesite of another great tapas restaurant, Pipa. Not sure why it didn’t last, but my remorse dissipated after one bite of their guac with grapefruit salsa. Such a simple, brilliant twist to refresh a classic.

Another great spin on a tried and true was the beet salad with “smoky” goat. It gave layers of depth to the dish that made it seem as if I was trying it again for the first time.

But the dish that stole my corazón was the huevos rancheros. Easily the best I’ve ever had. Served in a skillet, sitting on a crisp tortilla bed. Nothing too inventive about it truthfully, so I’m guessing it was just a matter of quality ingredients and proportions.

The ham and cheese fritters are also worthy of your attention, described as “ooey-gooey,” as in “Oooo-weee are those friggin’ good!”

And while I didn’t actually try it, the fish sandwich got tons of praise form the other side of the table. That said, upon my return for dinner, I did try the the crispy fish tacos and holy contrasts Batman! The use of pickled cabbage is a beacon of brightness that balances out the fried fish, keeping it from feeling heavy. Just genius. And the habanero sauce they dress it with was so on point I didn’t need to add a drop extra, which is rare for me. Definitely adding this one to my Ultimates.

But Cocina is not perfecto. The much raved about short rib taco fell way short of the fishy glory that preceded it. And speaking of fish, the fluke ceviche was chewy and bland. Probably the worst dish we ordered and worst ceviche I’ve ever had. As for the octopus, it made my taste buds scoff, especially after having just had some killer pus at Mermaid Inn a few nights before. So the comparison did not bode well for Cocina.

Service was also a touch spotty during lunch. Not knowing when to clear dishes. Hostess tried to seat us inches from the front door with nothing between us and the frigid cold outside but a velvet curtain, even though we had a reservation. But for dinner we sat at the bar and our server/bartender couldn’t have been better. Partly due to his wonderful recommendation of that fish taco and also due to his suggestion of the blood orange margarita– deadly!

In the middle of the road, I would put the Red Hibiscus sangria, which was certainly good, packed with refreshing fruit, but unfortunately not quite as packed with awesome as the margarita.

And all four desserts also fell somewhere in the mids… The tres leche was solid, but I’ve most certainly had better. The flan was also pretty good, but it’s hard for me to get too excited about flan. I’m not the biggest fan. The vanilla fritters with Mexican chocolate was done well, but the flavors just didn’t wow. The best of the quatro being the rice pudding. It’s nothing incredible, but if you like rice pudding (which I do), it is done very well.

And well done is the main takeaway at Cocina. The hits definitely outweigh the misses enough that I feel obliged to round up to four knives.

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