Prandial, which opened about a month ago in the Flatiron District, is my kind of restaurant. It has a serious chef in the kitchen, a legit. wine list, tables a generous distance apart, white tablecloths, and solicitous service.
So it’s a pity to report that the food was not very good on a recent Saturday evening. Here’s hoping the kitchen’s performance was atypical, perhaps a late-summer swoon, with the chef out of town and farmhands in the kitchen.
The chef, Pierre Rougey, was an instructor at the French Culinary Institute and earned a Michelin star in France, so presumably he knows what he is doing. I don’t know to what extent he is present here, or merely writing a menu for others to execute.
The owner, Mark Stern (formerly of the now-defunct “Village”) is presumably motivated to get it right, because he actually owns the space (previously the soul-food restaurant Justin’s, which closed in 2007). He spent a pretty penny on the renovation, a striking post-industrial dining room with an antique bar and back-lit subway tile.
So far, diners aren’t flocking here. On a Saturday evening, albeit in late August, it was at best one-third full.
“Prandial” may not have been the best name, as the word is unfamiliar to many. (“What’s ‘pran-dye-uhl’?” was overheard at the bar.) And the restaurant’s slogan, printed beneath the logo — “relate to your meal” — is rather silly.
The proffer is American cuisine, purportedly with French technique. It’s inexpensive for the neighborhood, with a focused menu of ten appetizers ($9–15) and the same number of entrées (most in the $20s).
The wine list, dominated by the U.S., France, and Italy, runs to about half-a-dozen pages, with plenty of options below $50 and even a list of half-bottles. It’s a remarkable selection for a casual restaurant, especially a brand new one.
I might have liked the Pan Crisped Smoked Skate ($12; above left) with arugula and a fried quail egg. But the egg was slightly overdone, and not runny enough; and the whole contraption sat on a bizarre, chalky-green pancake.
An Artichoke Salad ($12; above right) was too cold, giving the impression of having been prepared earlier and allowed to sit in the fridge.
A hunky double-cut Pork Chop ($24; above left) was tough and dry. I ate less than half of it. If they’d only not overcook it, the pairing with spaetzle and Brussels sprouts would be promising. This left the Duck 2 Ways ($24; above right), with confit leg and pan-seared breast, as the evening’s only successful dish.
If the kitchen could catch up to the wine list, Prandial could be a worthwhile spot. But in the life of a new restaurant, there isn’t much time to fix such things before the crowd moves on. They’d better hurry.
Prandial (31 W. 21st Street between Fifth & Sixth Avenues, Flatiron District)
Food: American cuisine with (supposedly) French technique and uneven execution
Wine: An impressive list for such a new, inexpensive spot
Service: Friendly, solicitous, and efficient
Ambiance: A smartly-renovated, spacious, post-industrial dining room
Rating: Neighborhood spot
Why? For the wine list; benefit of the doubt to the food, which needs to improve