35 West 64th Street
New York, NY 10023
Maybe you're the sort of diner that waxes nostalgic over the passing of the days when going out required a bit of a production. Jackets and ties. Brooches and makeup. Perfume and cologne. Not a Lakers hat in sight. Fear not, sweet lamentite, such places still exist and Picholine is right there with them, so don't forget your jacket.
There are no prices at Picholine. Everyone gets a choice between the $100 per person three course prix-fix menu or the slightly more expensive seven course tasting menu. Dudeman, Shrink, and I went for the standard prix-fix. Wine is extra and glasses cost about $20 per and most bottles are between $100 and $300 with some outliers on either side. That being said, don't go expecting to find something in either the reasonable $40 range or blatantly unreasonable $5,000 range.
The interior is colored in relaxing pastels and since the lamps are aimed at the walls, the light emitted is a pleasantly diffused white glow. Even the chairs remind me of orthopedic shoes. The music is piano jazz. The volume of conversation is hushed. Don't drop your pin; someone might wake up. The silence was contagious and when Dudeman raised his voice ever so slightly telling a story, I shuddered in embarrassment. "Calm down man!" I thought. "Can't you see the couple at the next table trying to die in their sleep?"
The courses at Picholine are of the variety that is small enough to have generated countless Far Side cartoons. Knowing this, the chefs prepare a series of pre-meal amuse bouches as well as offering a variety of breads. The first to arrive was a pressed olive and fennel pyramid-shaped thing which, at best, was revolting. If you can imagine eating a piece of black licorice that you found sitting in an ashtray at happy hour, you'd have an idea of what it was like. And yet, this hideousness was followed shortly thereafter by a small square of sweet carrot pudding that was reminiscent of a carrot brownie and a grape-sized glazed and candied fig ball. Both were delicious and almost made me forget about the ashtray. But... I photograph my food, so I didn't.
Our meals came with an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. For her appetizer, Shrink ordered the Onion Soup 2013. If the appetizer had a science fiction name, the the science was making a gruyere-like cheese into an ice cream shaped ball in the center around which the soup was poured. And the fiction was the onion. Apparently, there wasn't any. "I mean, it's okay... but I'd have liked some onion in my onion soup." Dudeman chose the Crab and Avocado Roulade, a sushi roll-like tube of crab wrapped in avocado with a pickled daikon and a citrus emulsion. It was good and praised by all. Still, I preferred by option the most. I chose the Rabbit and Fois Gras Rillette. Rabbit pureed to the creamy consistency of fois gras, then mixed with that fois gras and put under a pistachio cracker and some mildly picked vegetables. Delectable. Like eating butter.
The entrees were small, but everyone loved their choice. I was impressed, but more discerning when it came to one in particular. Shrink ordered the Wild Kind Salmon en Croute. She and Dudeman both said that they felt that it was the best salmon that they had had in years. So tender, so not fishy, so perfect. I felt that it was completely tasteless. "Yeah, but salmon usually has that distinct salmon taste." She said. "So let me get this straight," I replied. "You want salmon, but only if it tastes like tilapia?" My entree was the Painted Hills Farm Rib-Eye. The meat was amazing. Intoxicatingly good. But the creamed spinach croquettes were mediocre and the bearnaise sauce was far too tart and even a tiny bit overpowered all the flavor of the steak. I fond myself stripping the dish of its accouterments. Dudeman won out with the Thomas Farm Squib Tajine, squab with spiced carrots, dates and couscous. It was fantastic. Far and away the best entree of the evening. And when do you really get a chance to have squab?
Picholine is known for its cheese, but we skipped right over that choice and headed straight for the dessert menu. Mine was the best. It was the Flowers For Mom, an elderflower panna cotta over a vanilla sponge cake and under a rose sorbet. Amazing. Stop arguing with me and get it. Dudeman opted for the Rhubarb Contrasts, a strange dessert of rhubarb cream and rhubarb sorbet with a lychee somethingorother. I gave a solid meh. So did he. Shrink went with the Dark Chocolate Brownie, served under a minted pea ice cream (yep, pea ice cream) with bacon meringue (a white candy-cracker type thing that hardly tasted of bacon (probably for the better)). These rather experimental desserts were followed by a selection of various candies, like the beet and jalapeno macarons pictured below, as well as a variety of chocolates and sweet gummies. The coffee is specialty Fonté French-press (with tasting notes) and will run you $12, but you do get three cups worth out of it.. I ordered their Bin 16.
Three appetizers, three entrees, three desserts, three glasses of wine, three coffees, throw on tax and tip totaled a hair under $500.