Friday, May 28, 2010
Marc Forgione: Back to Basics
Recently, the balance in the foodie universe was turned on its head when Marc Forgione kicked New York Times Financial Writer Ron Lieber, out of his restaurant after he had dressed down the chef in his own kitchen. Regardless of where you stand on this incident, it certainly put Marc Forgione's restaurant in the headlines. They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but as provocative as this story is, I feel much of the attention is misdirected. Instead of focusing on what was said, the real story should emphasize Forgione's no-nonsense approach to cooking rather than who hurt who's ego.
A few weeks before this incident occurred, MW and I enjoyed dinner at Marc Forgione's eponymous restaurant in Tribeca.
Marc is the son of legendary American chef, Larry Forgione, who, along with James Beard and Alice Waters, helped revolutionize American cuisine. Practically growing up in a kitchen, Marc honed his craft by traveling to France and working under Laurent Tourondel as chef de cuisine for his BLT empire. Located on the quiet Reade Street, one might easily pass by the restaurant without noticing it existed. The restaurant is divided into two separate areas: a bar with communal tables on one side and a dining room on the other. Exposed brick walls, dark wooden tables and archaic lanterns holding candles created a trendy but inviting interior. We began our meal with drinks; MW ordered the Spring Sangria while I had a Brooklyn Lager.
As our server described the night's specials we were given House Made Potato Rolls with a Chive Butter. These rolls were absolutely delicious, warm and soft. They practically begged to be slathered with the herb butter. While bread service varies greatly in New York restaurants, Forgione's impressive bread was an indication that the chef pays close attention to every aspect of his restaurant.
As impressive as the bread was, the amuse bouche left us wondering if we had mistakenly been shorted an order. Two spoons appeared on a plate; one held a Salmon Tartar while the other contained a Red Pesto Arancini. While MW mentioned the tartar was good I was less impressed with the arancini as there was no trace of the red pesto. However, the most puzzling aspect of this ordeal was why we weren't each given both offerings. Why bother to send out two different options if only one can be sampled by each diner? I noticed the same occurrence as I scanned the neighboring tables, which left me wondering if this was common practice at the restaurant.
Moving on to our appetizers, MW ordered the "Hangtown Fry." Originally an omelet containing oysters, bacon and other ingredients fried together, Forgione's version was more of a deconstructed rendition on this classic. Strips of North Country Bacon laid atop an Omelet that hid Crispy Fried Olde Salt Oysters, a Smoked Paprika Aioli and Pickled Red Onions. While each individual component was well seasoned and tasted good, the dish tasted even better when the components were combined. Especially apparent was the crispy, briny flavor of the oysters which worked so well with the omelet.
I ordered the Basil Whipped Ricotta Ravioli with Lamb Belly Bolognese and a Wild Garlic Oil. The pasta was cooked al dente and the bolognese was nice and rich, with a gamey lamb flavor that was balanced from the basil infused ricotta. I enjoyed the sauce so much that I used some of the bread to sop whatever remained in my dish.
MW ordered the Creekstone Prime Hanger Steak, Bone Marrow Potatoes, Shiitake Marmalade, Garlic Gremoulata and Jim Beard Salad. We both enjoyed just about everything about this entree. The steak has a great minerally taste that complimented the rich potatoes and earthy shiitake marmalade. The salad reference is to non-other than James Beard, who was a good friend of Larry Forgione. The salad had just enough acid from the vinaigrette to bring balance to the dish.
I ordered the nightly special which happened to be a 14 oz. Veal Chop with Green Garlic Tater Tots and Siberian Kale with Smoked Bacon. The mammoth-sized chop was tender and juicy, complimenting the smokey-bitter kale and crispy garlicky tots. As with the hanger steak, this dish seemed well thought out and executed, so much so that no component seemed to be extraneous.
Pretty stuffed at this point, MW and I chose to share the Mascarpone Panna Cotta, Rhubarb Soup with Strawberry-Mango Confetti. The tangy panna cotta mixed with the sweet rhubarb soup and bits of fresh strawberry and mango that made for a refreshing dessert.
While Manhattan is filled with restaurants that rely on a number of different gimmicks to entice customers, Marc Forgione serves up some of the best and most unpretentious food in the city. Instead of following in the molecular gastronomic trend that seems to define haute cuisine today, Forgione's strength lies in is his stubbornness to deviate from the cooking basics. This isn't to suggest Forgione's food is the least bit boring as was evident with his deconstructed, but ultimately successful take on the classic "hangtown fry" or the playful green garlic tater tots that accompanied my veal chop, but rather, reinforce the idea that some of the best food is often the most basic.
134 Reade Street
New York, NY 10013
To see all our pics please click the flickr link.