Last week I was in New York City for my cousin’s wedding. The night before the wedding there was a casual dinner for close family and friends at Recette restaurant in the West Village. The food at Recette is hard to describe, so I think I’ll steal from the New York Times. It’s “American food with Spanish flavors, cooked with French technique.” I checked out the menu before we arrived, and I was more than a little worried. I don’t eat seafood, and yet nearly everything on the menu had some sort of seafood in it. It was unnecessary, if you ask me. This salad has lobster in it. That soup has mussels in it. Even the spaghetti is tossed in a sauce of sea urchin and shrimp!
I had nothing to worry about, though. The wait staff provided the most friendly and accommodating service I may have ever come across. It was absolutely no problem to mix and match the items on the menu (a fixed list, chosen by my cousin and his fiancée) with their vegetarian equivalents.
The first course (already seafood free) was a radish salad with crispy pig ear, fresh ricotta, dried cranberry, and sunflower seed. I’ve mentioned before how much I love salads at fancy restaurants because they always have the most unusually tasty combinations that I would never think to try myself. Imagine putting ricotta on a salad? Maybe you would. I never would. The pig ear (which somehow doesn’t sound as appealing as bacon even though they’re similar) wasn’t all that great. Taste-wise, it was alright, but it was way too crunchy to be enjoyed. I kept worrying about breaking a tooth. And aren’t pig ears usually dog treats? What’s next? Mesclun with rawhide?
Second course was the aforementioned shrimp and sea urchin spaghetti. Sans shrimp and sea urchin. Neither my parents nor my other cousin cared for the pasta, but I thought it was delicious. I’ll admit it was rather smothered in herbs – basil and something else… oregano, maybe? – but I thought it created an enjoyable and unusual burst of flavor. Maybe it was sea urchin…
Third course: Berkshire pork belly with turnips, romesco and sherry caramel (normally also served with shrimp). I’m not a huge fan of the giant layer of fat associated with pork belly, and I didn’t eat all of it, but it certainly was melt-in-your-mouth soft and sweet. The romesco and caramel sauces created an interesting sweet and sour combination, and the turnips were delicious. I wish there were more than just two tiny ones, but maybe they were so good because they were small. Cute food always seems to taste better.
Part four was a “pre-dessert” that isn’t listed on the regular Recette menu, and I didn’t steal a copy of the night’s rundown, so I can’t say specifically what it was. It was a lemon custard of sorts, somewhere between curd and mousse, with a berry coulis and a slice of rosemary shortbread. I did take a picture if that helps anyone identify it.
Finally, we had the restaurant’s signature dessert, a deconstructed version of s’mores, graham cracker ice cream with homemade toasted marshmallow and a spicy chocolate ganache. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in dessert. I don’t love marshmallow (I’m coming across awfully picky in this post, aren’t I?), and graham cracker produces a pretty grainy ice cream which is typically a characteristic one tries to avoid in ice cream. It was alright, but I’d never order it again. Usually I’m all for “fusion” and experimental menu items, but sometimes, you just shouldn’t mess with dessert.