La Table du Chef

5 Rue Jean Daumas 06400 CannesFrance • +33 4 93 68 27 40

 

An acquaintance of mine who used to live in Cannes turned me on to this place, and if you are sick of the Cannes scene, Table du Chef is pretty perfect for you, because not many people know about it and there are only about 8 tables in the entire joint, so the odds of you running into anyone you’ll have to schmooze are slimmer than Christian Bale in The Machinist.

The concept is French Omakase. Four courses of whatever the chef wants to make you. Or in other words, whatever looked good at the market that day.

Our meal began with a yummy, garlicky gazpacho that cancelled out any chance for kissing later that evening. On the heels, we had surprisingly thin tuna steak served over white beans that was decent, but because the fish was so thin it was a bit overpowered by the totality of the dish.

Three is a magic number, and not just at School House Rock, because third in the line up was a killer duck entrée that somehow tasted like foie gras. I have no idea how he pulled it off. Perhaps he cooked is sous vide in foie gras juice? As I said, I have no idea and I have never tasted duck like this before, but I would definitely like to sign up for more!

For dessert, they served an artful tower of apple, cream and crisp and while it was certainly very good, it somehow didn’t wow. Similar to 3 out of the 4 courses, making Table a solid 3 knives, but just shy of greatness.

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La Pecora Bianca

1133 Broadway New York, NY 10010 • (212) 498-9696 • lapecorabianca.com

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Only two years young, this relative newcomer has a soothing effect the moment you walk in, with its pastel and white trimmed decor, which feels much more French café than Italian ristorante, but I’ll let it slide.

What is harder to let slide are the flies inside the restaurant, during winter no less. Not exactly the companions I was hoping to join me at my table. The other thing I can’t ignore is that the food, on average, is relatively average.

Among my favorite things would be the caprese sandwich made with green tomatoes and stretched mozzarella, which comes off sort of like burrata. It’s definitely good, but just not as good as it sounds.

Another solid get is their gazpacho, although they blend it quite thoroughly, whereas I much prefer the chunky, textural take on the dish. But flavor-wise is hits all the right notes.

In the middle, I’d chalk up the Bolognese. It’ll do the job if you have a hankering, especially with a glass of cabernet, but don’t expect it to make your day.

And my one big skip would be the chicken sandwich. It’s as bland as this current season of Homeland.

My advice, head one avenue over and try L’Amico. It’s far superior in every way. Unfortunately that means it’s also much harder to get into.

2 teeth

 

La Boulangerie par Jean Luc Pelé

104 boulevard Sadi Carnot06110 Le Cannet, France • +33 4 93 45 36 32 • www.jeanlucpele.com/fr/

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Located on a tiny, pedestrian-only rue, sits this bakery/grab-and-go café with a few tables outside and pretty decent looking pre-prepared food. For example, the roasted veggie sandwich on a long narrow focaccia roll filled with peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and squash, dressed with a pesto spread looked mighty tasty from the other side of that glass case. But after taking a bite, I was quickly reminded that even in France, pre-prepared food that’s been sitting around in a case is seldom life-changing. So don’t be Francophooled.

Also, along with the sandwich, I tried a cup of their avocado gazpacho, which sounded and looked very intriguing. Sadly, the flavor of avocado was quite absent, or taste in general, for that matter. Perhaps the sweets are better.

All in all, it’s not terrible, but why settle when you can just head to Cocoon around the corner- it’s less than a two minute walk and easily two to three knives better. Plus the name is a lot shorter and easier to pronounce.

2 teeth

Gabriel Kreuther

41 W 42nd St. New York, NY 10036(212) 257-5826gknyc.com

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“Whoa Nellie!” as sports commentator Keith Jackson used to say. That’s about the only way I can describe what just took place in my mouth. And that sentence didn’t quite come out as intended. But that’s to be expected because this place is so good words will fail you.

From the very second you set foot inside the expansive, artful dinning room you feel as if you are in a forest designed by Phillipe Starck. Service is also impressive, but not quite as art directed.

The platings, on the other hand, are stunning, kicking things off with an Ultimate Gazpacho made from yellow tomatoes and loaded with little goodies set in an amphitheater of deliciousness, ranging from confit sungolds to parmesan tuile, which is French for “happy-inducing, bite-size cookie things.”

The second course was also sensational, a seared foie gras with spring onions, basil and pickled strawberries. I would say it was divine, but I fear you would think less of me for it. And even if you wouldn’t, I’d probably think less of myself.

The Dorade Royale entrée was equally spectacular. Worthy of scene in Pulp Fiction just to discuss the Royale-ness of the dish, because it was almost as if the fish had mated with a cloud and became as light and smooth as vapor itself. Yet packed with so much depth of flavor that that you almost need a submarine to appreciate it, like fennel and coriander and green tomato marmalade.

The only mortal dish of the evening was the Fleur de Temps, a white chocolate mousse with lemon marmalade and raspberry sorbet. And although I’ve already undersold it, even that was pretty awesome when you had it with the raspberry sorbet, which was the true star of the plate. Oh, and speaking of stars, the chocolates at the end of the meal, served in a cocoa bean box was the stickage of the landing. Especially when you take into account all of the terrific bread courses along the way, not to mention the refreshing Reisling.

This place is firing on all cylinders and then some. From décor to presentation to the food and even the service, which while not flawless, managed to kill it on the recommendations. Granted nothing we had was bad, so I’m guessing recos come easy here.

5 teeth

Allium

Four Seasons Hotel 120 E Delaware Pl. Chicago, IL 60611 •  (312) 799-4900 •  alliumchicago.com

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I suppose it should come as no shock that the restaurant in the Four Seasons is excellent, because after having now eaten at five of them (New York, Toronto, Atlanta, Istanbul & Chicago), the only shock would be if it wasn’t superb. After all, that’s just how they roll- four knives or better, or four get it. And unFOURgettable it was (okay, I’m done with the “four” puns). A farm to table tour de FOURce (I lied) that would make the Department of Agriculture proud.

Feeling a bit chunky, however, I didn’t go all in, deciding to keep it lite with choices like the white asparagus gazpacho accented with marcona almonds, grapes and smoked trout roe. It was one of the best cold soups I’ve ever had and everything I was hoping it would be. Full of flavor, not calories. And as fresh as The Prince of Bel Air.

The other half of my soup and salad duo was a roasted carrot salad comprised of marinated wheat berries, lime yogurt, bitter greens, pistachio and some mysterious form of heat. I’m gonna go with chile. It was like Bugs Bunny’s wet dream on a plate. Ew… I think I might’ve even grossed myself out on that one. But assuming I didn’t just ruin it for you, this is a must get. Trust me. You need this.

Then, wash it all down with an excellent sav blanc from South Africa and you will be happier than Pharrell on Zoloft.

4 teeth

The Ultimate Soup (Cold)

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Momofuku Ko – New York, NY

Let’s be honest, head to head cold soup is pretty much a nonstarter compared to hot soup. The way hot soup warms you to the core, the aromas wafting up from the bowl in ribbons of steam, the way the spices and herbs infuse the liquid as it cooks. And then there’s gazpacho, which is more or less a bowl of salsa in disguise.

Well, Momofuku Ko just proved that gazpacho isn’t the only game in cold soup town with their honeydew melon and avocado soup. Accented with macadamia nuts for a nice textural contrast. It was so creamy and refreshing and about twenty other adjectives I am sparing you from, because this isn’t about my knowledge of the thesaurus. It’s about cold soup finally being hot.

Del Posto

85 10th AveNew York, NY 10011(212) 497-8090 delposto.com

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Having been to a gaggle of Batali restaurants I have to say he is all over the map for me, his record being 5-2. Del Posto just barely making it among the 5, as opposed to the 2. The 2 are Osteria Mozza in LA and Babbo in NYC. I found both to be highly inflated and mediocre at best, especially in light of the money you’ll be throwing down. The other 4 wins, all more handily than Del Posto, are Eataly, Lupa, Pizzeria Mozza and Tarry Lodge.

But I digress. Back to Del Posto. I find the décor to be very stuffy, particularly when you consider the neighborhood it’s in. It feels like it belongs in midtown or on Wall St., not the trendy Meat Packing District. But it is far from bad. Just out of place, if you ask me.

Now for the food. I was certain to do a little Yelping research before I arrived, and we did in fact do the lunch prix fixe adding one extra course and wine parings. So, we “did it right.”

The first thing to come was the amuse bouche, which definitely got things off on the right foot. It was in three parts, a gazpacho that was quite good, a fritter of sorts, that was excellent, and a crab puff pastry, that was a little salty, but I liked it.

For my anitpasti I started with the lobster, based upon a few Yelp recos and I have to say it was just eh.

For my primi, I also went with the Yelpster hype and chose the garganelle, which was definitely good, but not 5 star good.

For my secondi, I had the duck and shared some lamb both based, once again, on Yelp acclaim. The duck was just okay. But the lamb was fantastic.

And finally, for my dolci, I had the chocolate tortino- and yes, I Yelped that too. And that also, was just okay (further confirming why I left Yelp). HOWEVER, it was all of the other little desserts they brought that were incredible. There were these mini ice cream bar things that were a wonderful surprise as they exploded in your mouth. White chocolate oat clusters that made me wish I had just ordered a vat of those, and macadamia nuts rolled in chocolate and other goodness that I can’t seem to recall either, but keep in mind I was pretty tipsy by that point from all of the wine, which was well paired and quite good.

So, the final tally for me on Del Posto is that I liked it. Would I rush to go back? No. But I’m glad I went. I had a great time with great people. And the service was excellent.

3 teeth