I hadn't been to Artisanal in over a year (when i visit NYC I like to try new places), but yesterday the comforting thought of onion soup was lingering in my mind, so before attending a lecture, my husband and I decided to have a late lunch at the mecca of all things cheese.
Onion Soup: It was wonderful! The broth had a deep full-bodied richness that held up nicely under the slice of bread and three cheese topping. For years, I had proclaimed Balthazar King of the onion soups based on my admitted, very narrow range of comparison.... but Artisanal surprised me yesterday with a perfect version of one of my favorite comfort foods. On a scale of 1 to 10, yesterday's soup was a 10.
Steak Frites: This little bistro dish was even better than I remember. The hangar steak was prepared just right. It was a good quality piece of meat, not tough, and it had the full beef flavor one wants in a hangar. The frites were decent, thin shoestrings. Again, I have to give this dish a 10. For quality and pricepoint it rocked.
Macaraoni and Cheese: I didn't try this, but my husband said it easily was one of the best versions he has ever had.
Gougeres: Okay, now we have a little problem. But Artisanal, I have found a solution for you!!! We ordered some as an app to have with our bottle of prosecco (At $44, a bit pricey but a lot of fun!) The problem is these little mini parmesan-flavored cream puff shells are dull. Now don't get me wrong, I like them. Or I should say I want to like them, in the Sally Field manner of really really liking them.... But as they are now, I don't like them enough.
I had one gougeres left when our entrees were served and I dipped in the sauce underneath the steak, popped it in my mouth, and got a very pleasurable flavor surge. Then it hit me. The gougeres are very much akin to miniature Yorkshire Puddings... pretty much the same ingredients.... and so naturally they pair well with meat juices.
My recommendation to the Artisanal powers that be is to serve the gougeres with a small ramekin of Au Jus froma prime rib type meat, or in a similar vein, a little dish of roast beef gravy. I think it would greatly enhance the gougeres...and besides, people like to dunk!
Service: The place was jam packed when we arrived at 1:30, but with a 2 p.m. reservation, and no need to rush or hurry, we enjoyed some libations at the bar, and it gave me a chance to view the room working on all pistons.
I was happy to see the place promptly empty at 2 as business workers hurried back to their jobs. I got to enjoy the quieter Artisanal. Service was friendly and professional, from the smiling bartender who reminded me of Harry Connick, Jr., to the Maitre 'D who balanced a packed to the gills busy room with graciousness, and a very pleasant server who let us dine at o ur own pace.
As much as I like to try new places, I will return to Artisanal much sooner than one year.