Entries in BLT Market (3)

Saturday
Feb212009

There‚Äôs No Recession at BLT Market

Note: BLT Market closed at the end of 2011. The space is now Auden.

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Hardly a day goes by without another dozen restaurants practically giving their food away — anything to get customers to part with increasingly scarce cash.

But the recession has not yet arrived at BLT Market, Laurent Tourondel’s haute barnyard on Central Park South. I reserved a table for an informal meal with friends visiting from out of town, but my heart sank when I looked at the online menu. The place is more expensive than ever. If they’ve made any compromise for tough times, I sure-as-hell can’t see it.

Appetizers are $14–19, entrées $26–45 (the majority over $35), side dishes $8–12, desserts $9–12. None of the entrées come with vegetables, so for a three-course meal you could easily spend $70 per head before tax and tip.

You’ll likely go north of $100 if you drink wine, as the expensive list has few options below $70 per bottle. It tops out with an 1870 Château-Lafite-Rothschild at the odd price of $11,111.

You do, at least, get some nice extras, starting with the excellent “pigs in a blanket” amuse (right) and the terrific warm bread stuffed with spinach. I wonder, though, why they haven’t come up with any other amuses: I’ve had the same one twice previously. The novelty this time was a serving of warm, cream-filled doughnut holes after dinner.

Both savory courses were faultless: a Chestnut Apple Celery Root Soup with Mushroom Toast ($16; above left) and Roasted Halibut ($27; above right).

There is no mystery about why BLT Market is so expensive: the dining room was full on a Wednesday evening. The chef de cuisine these days is Ed Cotton, formerly of the Michelin-starred Veritas. His work here has flown beneath the radar, as the original reviews pre-dated his arrival, and I don’t believe any of the critics have been back. The Times never reviewed the place at all, an omission that ought to be rectified.

I think there are better options for your money, but if you happen to dine at BLT Market you won’t feel cheated. Everything is well executed, the service is excellent, and the faux barnyard décor is easy on the eyes, if not especially original.

BLT Market (1430 Sixth Avenue at Central Park South, West Midtown)

Food: **
Service: **
Ambiance: **
Overall: **

Sunday
Jan132008

Update: BLT Market

bltmarket-inside.jpg
Kalina

Note: Click here for a more recent visit to BLT Market.

We last visited BLT Market on opening week, finding it promising but not yet polished. Since then, the reviews are in, most of them favorable (Platt, Cuozzo, Lane, Tables for Two).

Frank Bruni issued a peculiar dissent, relegating the restaurant to Dining Briefs (i.e., not a full review). He found much of the food very good, but called chef Laurent Tourondel “a slacker” for opening “assiduously promoted, trend-conscious restaurants” instead of making the “real impact on the city’s dining scene” that he’s capable of.

I agree with Bruni to an extent. My meals at the BLT restaurant brood have generally been very good (with a few odd lapses), but you always feel you’re getting something less than Tourondel’s best effort. With his large restaurant family now numbering fifteen, he cannot be spending much time at any one of them.

Nevertheless, you’ll pass a happy time at Tourondel’s latest New York restaurant, BLT Market, though you won’t get out cheaply. On a recent visit, Amish Chicken ($30) was among the less expensive entrées. Rock shrimp risotto ($36) and a pork chop ($38) were both wonderful, but no one would call them bargains at a restaurant this informal. Cocktails at the bar (technically part of the hotel, not the restaurant) were staggering: $16 for a Whisky Sour, $17 for a Negroni.

The menu has been expanded to include separately-orderable side dishes that it lacked before—always a sure way to plump up the bill (though we didn’t bite). At all the BLT restaurants, the menus are printed on thin, cheap paper with a half-life that couldn’t be more than a day or so. So why are the specials printed on a separate sheet of paper, of which we were given only one copy? Surely a restaurant so expensive could get this right.

We were on our way to a show, so I was pleased to find that they got us out in an hour without rushing. The amuse-bouche was the same pigs-in-a-blanket as before, but more enjoyable this time. The garlic bread is still superb.

BLT Market  (1430 Sixth Avenue at Central Park South, in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, West Midtown)

Food: **
Service: *½
Ambiance: *½
Overall: **

Friday
Aug312007

BLT Market

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BLT Market postcard, based on art work displayed in the restaurant

Note: Click here for more recent visits to BLT Market.

You would have every reason to be a little cynical about the opening of yet another “Bistro Laurent Tourondel” restaurant. In a matter of three years, Tourondel has launched almost a dozen of them, the majority being clones of the very first one, BLT Steak. To date, the best of the brood has been BLT Fish, which earned three stars from Frank Bruni, as well as a Michelin star, which it promptly lost.

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Main Menu

Now comes BLT Market, which occupies the former Atelier space in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Central Park South. To Tourondel’s credit, this is his first restaurant in quite a while that isn’t a mindless clone of a previous endeavour. The idea of a restaurant focused on seasonal ingredients is hardly original, but Tourondel’s version of it could become one of the better ones.

I walked in on impulse at around 6:30 p.m. on a weeknight. The dining room was booked, but I got an outdoor table immediately with a nice view of Central Park. Typical of a BLT restaurant, the server presented me with several loose sheets of paper: a menu, a specials menu, and a wine list supplement. (I didn’t ask to see the full wine list, but they have one.)

I ordered a cocktail called the Apricot–Mint Caiproska ($14). Like other cocktails I’ve had at BLT restaurants, it was too small, and almost all ice. I felt like I had paid about $1 per sip. I wasn’t shown the full wine list, but the paper supplement showed ten selections by the glass and bottles from a variety of regions. It included eight choices from New York state, something you do not normally see. With bottles priced mostly above $60, there were few bargains to be had.

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Specials Menu

The menu is focused and not unduly long. There are seven appetizers ($12–25), one soup ($12), two pastas ($14–24 as appetizers; $23–38 as entrées), six entrées ($26–43), six desserts ($10–11), and a cheese course ($14). A sidebar lists all of the vegetables and fish that are in season. The specials menu added an additional appetizer, two entrées, and one dessert. While the prices are obviously expensive, they are all-inclusive, unlike the other BLT restaurants, where the side dishes cost extra, and drive up the bill considerably.

I wasn’t that hungry, so I ordered two appetizers. Grilled Octopus ($18) came with a fresh cranberry  bean salad and bergamot dressing. The octopus was nicely charred, and thick enough to have the consistency of a steak, but it upstaged the accompanying salad, which was dull. Raw and Confit Big Eye Tuna ($18) came with a tonnato sauce, garnished with avocado and fresh heart of palm. This was a lovely dish, attractively plated. The raw tuna was especially good, but the confit version seemed not as flavorful.

The amuse-bouche was a riff on “pigs in a blanket”—a small slice of frankfurter wrapped in a pastry shell with a mustard and relish dressing. It was a cute idea, but a bit messy to eat, and the hot dog didn’t seem fresh. The bread service was spectacular: a long hot garlic bread, served in a paper bag. Say what you want about Tourondel, but the breads in his restaurants are great.

The space is a bit more elegant than the other BLT restaurants, but with many informal touches. Tables are bare wood, with cloth napkins but paper placemats. Servers wear striped aprons, but the captains wear suits. The artwork, which I understand Tourondel selected himself, consists of large pastel paintings showing fruits and vegetables, such as the tomato still life shown at the top of this post.

Service was friendly, but slow, with a rather long gap between my first and second appetizer. The amuse and bread courses left my placemat festooned with crumbs, but they didn’t replace it until after the meal was over. I wasn’t smitten with BLT Market, but the restaurant shows promise. With the menu still technically in previews, I assume there will be refinements, and some of the service glitches will be smoothed out.

BLT Market (1430 Sixth Avenue at Central Park South, West Midtown)

Food: **
Service: *
Ambiance: **
Overall: **