Posts Tagged ‘the river cafe brooklyn’

My foodie adventures were limited to New York and Montreal in 2016.

In Montreal, Hoogan and Beaufort started the year on a high note (my first two meals), but my third visit impressed less, which is also what happened at my long time favourite pizzeria in town, Bottega. I did not care for my meals at Le Fantome , Yakitori Otto and Tiradito, all regarded as great restaurants by our local food journalists and most local food bloggers. Hvor (in my current top 3 in Montreal) and Marconi were my two preferred local restaurants in 2016. I also enjoyed some genuine ethnic food at Petite Ya Quartier (Congolese), Casse croute Notre Dame (Haitian) and Hot Africa (Pan African).

01I did spend plenty of time eating in New York in 2016. One highlight was the superb savory dishes at the River Cafe (located in Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn bridge), a restaurant widely known as a romantic destination but which savory french gourmet dishes happen to be as memorable. I ate at Atelier Joel Robuchon Montreal in January 2017 and in comparison, the French based gourmet food (the savoury dishes, not the desserts)  at the RC had the edge. And I swear it is not romance that influenced my impression of the RC.

New York has it all has it all, so I took advantage of its varied food offerings and tried different types of cuisines. One of them is yakitori (Japanese gastro pub), which  is well represented in New York, but the yakitoriya that stands out  is  the 1 star Michelin Torishin, which  fed me with some of the best yakitori food to be found in North America, alas  they had, on the day of my visit,  two employees whose “exploits” would have led to the immediate demotion of their sole Michelin star if I was an inspector of Michelin. All I wanted when I was at Torishin was to build a wall between those two dudes and myself and have Torishin paying for it. The account of my meal at Torishin can be perused here.

New York is also the mecca of North American steakhouses and after trying some of their best steakhouses (Bull & Bear Prime Steakhouse, Peter Luger, Del Frisco’s double Eagle, Strip House), I have to say that for my taste, the steak I had at Wolfgang’s steakhouse Park Avenue‘s matches the sort of steak I like (essentially because they dry age their steaks and season it the way I like it), with true Chefs instead of just some dudes hired to flip their steaks on the broiler, the service starting really well but ending poorly. While reading online reviews on their various New York locations, I noticed  that many people complained about the exact same poor service I have experience at  the end of my  meal (basically, the waitstaff disappearing once the food is served). So, I will go back and adapt  (by, as example, asking for a bottle of water so that you do not have to wake up and try  finding a waiter when you need water, etc) to what seem to be common at some of the WS NYC locations, which  a diner should not bother about at a restaurant, especially   given the pricetag of your  bill at this kind of  steakhouse, I will admit. But for now, no other steakhouse in NYC has fed me with a steak that is dry aged and tasting like the one at WS (apart Peter Luger, but WS offers a greater variety of starters, main courses and desserts).

Of course, you can also find some great service at a pricey restaurant in New York, as proven by my meal at Marea which is a superb Italian restaurant by North American standards but could be even better with meat, poultry and vegetables coming straight from Italy. I am usually a locavore, but in the case of Marea, the produce from Italy is what they were missing during my meal there. Another good finding was La Caye, as great as a Haitian restaurant can be in North America, but a restaurant that badly needs to start serving some dazzling cocktails to be a perfect caribbean restaurant. Jordan’s lobster dock in Brooklyn is another place I would highly recommend: nothing fancy here, as it is basically a seafood shack, but I have not found a better  seafood shack in New York up to now.

River Café, Brooklyn
Michelin stars: 1
Addr: 1 Water St, Brooklyn, NY 11201, United States
Phone: 1 718-522-5200
Type of cuisine: American cuisine (Essentially Classic French cooking technique using American ingredients)

RCThe River Café (near the Brooklyn Bridge) is an iconic restaurant which is widely known as one of the most romantic restaurants of New York city. I am usually not a fan of 1 star Michelin restaurants serving classic French cuisine in North America because their cooking hardly leaves any souvenir on my mind, but this was a special romantic occasion and River Café was the appropriate restaurant in this instance.

One unique / truely special romantic restaurant with an exceptional riverfront view over Manhattan, and one that chose not to rest on its laurels as even the food is not an afterthought. This is proper 1 star Michelin French/international/American  cooking.

The meal started with an amuse of Citrus and Olive Oil Poached Squid with Saffron Panna Cotta and sweet pepper Gelee. Pretty to espy and an indication that, although using classic French techniques, the creativity of this kitchen brigade is hard to ignore: the variety of colors is thoughtful, a cube of saffron panna cotta  with some poached squid is not a usual combination of food items at most restaurants, and yet they were complementary. My only regret is that I have familiarized  my palate with strong flavors to the extent that I have hard time appreciating the subtle flavors of this amuse. I won’t rate this amuse as I just do not have the required palate  to appreciate it.
RC2Tuna of prime quality served as a tartare with a layer of thin slices of the fish atop. This showcased a great understanding of how to get the most out of raw fish (well judged seasoning allowing the quality of the fish to be at the forefront while lifting up its natural flavor – I did not ask the staff if they did age the tuna a little bit, so I am not too sure if they did, but that was the effect I had in mouth and it dazzled. Miso/valencia orange/ pickled chili vinaigrette brought necessary complexity. 8/10
RC3Jumbo shrimps, poached to ideal doneness (tender while retaining a nice chew) served alongside a faultless citrus Maltaise sauce. Another display of some serious seafood cooking (superb produce, classic flavor combination but mastered really well) 8/10
RC5Steamed (with meyer lemon) salmon with an inspired  oriental broth (a shiitake mushroom broth that was as vibrant as some of its original Japanese renditions) was delicious, the aromas of the broth exciting and above all, balanced. This was served with jasmine rice. 8/10
RC4Poached lobster was another display of superb produce and great mastery of classic French cooking as the seafood tasted great, its poaching well timed, the classic French flavors enticing. If cooking using classic technique done this well is one’s definition of boring cooking, then I’d rather get bored lol. This came with lobster claw, spinach gratin and lobster infused marinara, squid ink cavatelli pasta (tiny quantity, wished I had more as that was  some great pastas that would not be considered as average in a good Italian restaurant ). 9/10
RC6Milk chocolate soufflé (served with toasted marshmallow, hot fudge, Tahitian vanilla bean ice milk) was risen properly but milk chocolate needs to be exciting at smell and in mouth to leave an impression. As with everything at the RC, this chocolate was of top quality, admittedly, but the soufflé was unexciting for my taste. Furthermore, when I see the mention of “milk”, I want to be blown away by some bold fresh milky fragrance….which was not the case with this dessert.  6/10
RC7Blueberry tartlet was  a proper rendition of the tartlet, the fruits of stellar quality, but the pastry lacking a bit of the exciting buttery fragrance that I prefer when enjoying a tartlet. Actually, this was made of caramelized almond which does  normally express very appealing flavor, but that was not put in evidence  6/10
On web sites like Tripadvisor and Yelp, some reviewers considered that the food at RC was average. I beg to differ. I would need to be totally ignorant of classic cooking (the presentation is contemporary but the food is backed by classic French cooking techniques) or to hate it in order to reach similar conclusion.
Pros: One unique / truely special romantic restaurant with an exceptional riverfront view over Manhattan, and one that chose not to rest on its laurels as even the food is not an afterthought.
Cons: A bit more “pep” (milk should be packed with bold lactic fresh flavor, caramelized almond should have the almond and caramel flavors better expressed, etc) is to be expected from the pastry creations I have sampled on that evening.
Overall food rating: 7.5/ 10 (Category: North american/french/international 1 star Michelin). It may sound harsh to score an overall 7.5/10 for the food after the series of really good savory dishes, but this is a 1 star Michelin, therefore the desserts needed to leave an impression too. They were good desserts, not great enough for a 1 star Michelin. That said, this is proper 1 star Michelin  French/international/American  cooking.  Same applies to the restaurant (in the classic restaurant category , obviously). It is pricey,should I repeat, but above all this is a world class romantic destination.