Preview: Recette

Recette, a small restaurant in the West Village area of Manhattan, has gotten a lot of press, but I've somehow managed to avoid reading most of it.

So when I had dinner there the other night, it felt a little like going to the movies when I know next to nothing about the film. I like that sensation. I like having a clean slate of expectations. (Note: I'm calling this a "preview" rather than a review because I don't feel like I can fully review it after only one dining experience.)

I had heard only positive things about Recette, but never in so much detail as to understand why or in what capacity. The restaurant is small. It offers a tasting menu ($75) as well as an a la carte menu of smaller dishes that aren't exactly tapas-sized, but aren't dinner-sized either. Diners ordering a la carte might want to choose at least three courses per person, although I wouldn't say the waitstaff pushes this. And rightfully so. I hate when servers tell me how much I should eat.

Between us, Boyfriend and I had six dishes:

1. a "snack" of delicate hamachi crudo with a zippy harissa aioli dolloped on the edge, and a single piece of uni balanced on top, the butter of the sea

2. autumn squash espuma, or a smooth soup that had been whipped and aerated almost into a foam, and in the middle, blanketed by soup, lay a single piece of roasted foie gras; a scattering of brussel sprout pieces added chew, and a bacon broth added tableside enveloped the whole thing with salt and depth,

3. seared scallops with coconut curry broth, cauliflower, and celery root,

4. huge "crispy" (really just deep fried) sweetbreads with escarole, capers, and brown butter,

5. ice cream and caramel over caramelized apples and a bit of almond cake,

6. pecan something or other with raisin ice cream and a few jelly batons (I can't remember exactly what was going on in this dessert, but it was frankly too much).

Locked into my taste memory forever: the soup. Boyfriend said it brought a tear to his eye.

The desserts, while good, didn't stand out to me. I like straightforward desserts with elegance. These were a bit too deconstructed and plated with too much zeal. Give me a cleanly cut slice of cake and a quenelle of ice cream. Don't balance a wafer at a 45 degree angle, draw Nike swooshes with sauce, and build a gridlock of extra stuff. I'm a firm believer that great desserts don't have to look like show stoppers. One or two embellishments can heighten a dessert, but three or four or five embellishments turn it into a flashy piece of artwork.

With drinks, plan to spend at least $75 per person for the a la carte menu. And now that I have a more clear understanding of what Recette offers and what it does well, I would love to go back for the full tasting menu.