I had dinner at Fleur de Sel on Christmas Eve a few years ago. It didn’t wow me. Like other expensive restaurant dinners I’ve had at holiday times, it seemed mass-produced and over-priced. But with Fleur de Sel winning a Michelin star for the second year in a row, I thought it was time to give it another chance and was very glad I did.
Dinner at Fleur de Sel is $79 for a three-course prix fixe, which we had. Also available are a six-course tasting menu (with two choices for most courses) at $87, and the chef’s tasting menu (number of courses not specified) at $112.
The evening’s only dud was my appetizer choice: Maine Lobster salad, with truffle mayonaise and Asian pair ($5 suppl.). I found the cold lobster thin and flavorless. My mom and my girlfriend both had the goat cheese and artichoke ravioli topped with caviar. Both of them gave me a taste, and it was outstanding. The kitchen sent out a a trio of crabmeat pancakes as a bonus mid-course, which were also excellent.
We went our own ways for the main course. I had the crispy poussin, with organic arugula, wild mushrooms, and foie gras emulsion. This was the best poultry dish I’ve had since the bluefoot chicken at Alain Ducasse. The crispness of the skin and the tenderness of the flesh inside were a perfect contrast. My mom ordered the Atlantic Halibut, and my girlfriend the Duo of Lamb ($6 suppl.), and both pronounced themselves delighted.
A roasted fig dessert (which two of us had) was wonderful, as was a chocolate tart. A complimentary order of the raspberry feulletteé with white chocolate and caramel ganache was also sent out for us to share.
The wine list is rather expensive. Many pages have no choices under $125; bottles under $75 are scarce. I was happy with a Chateauneuf du Pape at $80, but I don’t think it would hurt to offer a few choices at lower prices. In an unusual arrangement, open bottles for the whole restaurant are kept on a table in the center of the room. We found this annoying, as we are quite capable of refilling our own glasses, and would prefer to do so at our own convenience, rather than a server’s.
The space at Fleur de Sel has a quiet, comfortable elegance. The décor is understated, but arguably a bit bland. The restaurant was less than half full on a Sunday night. Indeed, there was only one other occupied table when we arrived at about 6:20, although it had started to fill up nicely by the time we left.
Fleur de Sel (5 East 20th Street between 5th Avenue & Broadway, Flatiron District)