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Manhattan

Report on Atelier

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Restaurants & Bars

Report on Atelier

pastrychick | Aug 15, 2002 04:40 PM

I promised last week that I would report on my meal at Atelier, since it seemed so few had been there yet. We had dinner for five on a weeknight, the place was about 3/4 full when we sat down at 8:30 and nearly empty by the time we left around 11:15. We had the $68 three course prix fixe, which I consider a bargain given the quality (plus amuse bouche and pre-dessert palate cleanser as well as post-dessert frills). There is also a $95 menu -- six courses I think -- which I'm sure is also worth it if you can do it, if perhaps overwhelming. The room, as a few others have said, is a bit sedate and formal feeling -- very beige and marble generic lush hotel-like -- you feel you could be in any city with a ritz-carlton. On the plus side, that made for a very comfy dining experience, everyone could hear each other, etc. Nice linens, silver and china (each dish seems to have its own unique plate). The service was impeccable without being obsequious -- though a few of the fancier flourishes were rendered a bit awkward by our positioning -- five on a banquette with one at the head made simultaneous removal of cloches and saucing of plates a bit awkward for the cornered people. The wine list is pretty thorough, heavily french and northern european -- though I would say a bit lacking in bottles under $40 dollars (even if this place has four-star ambitions they should have a wider price range given the number of $100 and up wines). But the food is the real story here. The chef is skilled, confident and inventive without too many overly clever tricks. I had the seared foie with pea shoots and basil emulsion -- even the salt and pepper were perfect on this dish and the fragrance was amazing -- green/herbal notes were a nice change from the usual fruit/acid offset of fois' richness. Other apps we liked were the blue fin and scallop tartare and the poached organic egg with langoustines. The mesclun with roasted beets and goat cheese ravioli, while perhaps the least original creation, was also the platonic ideal for how this combo can be: fresh and herbal and earthy. The asparagus and leeks was the least interesting. Sadly, no one ordered the rabbit terrine I've read so much about. All were artfully plated as well. For main dishes, most stuck with fish. I had the roast lobster with caramelized baby fennel, rhubarb and artichokes which had a frothy coral sauce -- it was a wonderful and surprising balance of flavors and textures. Others had halibut with a mushroom sauce and hearts of palm that was visually striking in it's stark black-and-whiteness. Red trout was beautiful and velvety, loup de mer was stunning standing on it's edge on the plate with it's thin chive garters and colorful lovage and spinach garnish. Rack of lamb was presented en cocotte and carved and plated tableside -- a nice old-fashioned way to do it and perfectly cooked. The chef has a slight tendency to use salt heavily -- which yields strong flavor but a few of our palates became exhausted by the end of the entrees. Among desserts, we didn't sample the full gamut due to a tree-nut allergy, but I can tell you that the "rice crispy" with peanut ice cream is much more intersting and delicious than it sounds, and the raspberry napoleon is made even more ethereal by a sprinkling of candied lavendar. Olive oil ice cream, ordered out of curiosity, din't really taste like anything. Warm madelines, petits fours and chocolates provided the usual delightful excess. If the room weren't so dull I would say this place has the potential to be one of the better spots in the city if they keep it up. Definitley a good destination for food lovers.

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