Entries in Millesime (3)


NYC's Top Ten New Restaurants of 2010

’Tis the season when food writers sum up a year’s worth of dining, so here are my top ten new restaurants of 2010.

It was not a great year. No new restaurant earned three or four stars on our rating scale, although two came close: Millesime and Tamarind Tribeca. Sam Sifton of the Times awarded three stars to just one new place, Colicchio & Sons, but most critics (including me) found it disappointing. There is no “almost” in Timesspeak, but it did not appear that Sifton came even close to awarding three stars to any other new restaurant.

This does not mean that we ate badly, only that our best meals in new restaurants were at the lower end of the dining spectrum. This isn’t really surprising. Restaurants generally have six to eighteen-month planning cycles. If you’d been planning a new place in 2008 or 2009, how ambitious would you have been?

I’ve ordered the restaurants based on my dining experiences, which in most cases was one visit. Unlike the pro critics, I’m spending my own money. If I am disappointed, I’m not going to go back a second or third time, just to see if it was a fluke. Even when I like a place, I often don’t have the time or money to go back right away.

Some of the restaurants listed below actually opened in late 2009. I’ve included them if my first (or only) visit was in calendar year 2010.

1. Millesime. Chef Laurent Manrique returns to NYC (he was here in the ’90s), having won two Michelin stars in San Francisco. This classic French seafood brasserie doesn’t soar quite as high as that, but it was the best meal we had this year in a new restaurant. In our book, the food was three stars, though the service had some catching up to do. P.S. The downstairs “salon” is pretty good, too.

2. The Breslin. We adore the Breslin. Chef April Bloomfield’s fat-forward menu won’t be to all tastes, and it could be downright artery-clogging if we ate like this every day, but the chef doesn’t pander, and everything she does is impeccably prepared. They have a great lamb burger, and it’s great for breakfast too.

3. Tamarind Tribeca. This big-box Indian restaurant was the sleeper hit of 2010. We never imagined it would be this good. I gave it 2½ stars, but looking back, I am not sure why it didn’t get three. Of course, we sampled only a sliver of the menu, but what we had was flawless.

4. ABC Kitchen. Jean-Georges Vongerichten entered the farm-to-table game with a splash. Who’d have expected a restaurant in a home furnishings store to be this successful? JGV’s restaurants are notorious for quickly turning mediocre, after the attention-deficit chef wanders off to his next project. But if Chef Dan Kluger sticks around, ABC Kitchen could stay relevant for a long time. But good luck getting a last-minute reservation: the place is perpetually packed.

5. Ciano. Chef Shea Gallante (ex-Cru) returns to New York with a wonderful (if expensive) Italian restaurant, with a terrific wine list that allows most bottles to be ordered by the half. We would have rated this one higher, but one of our entrées was a dud (over-priced, under-cooked lamb chops).

6. Kin Shop. The year’s best Thai restaurant comes from an American, Top Chef alumnus Harold Dieterle. Not quite authentic, but clearly inspired by Thailand, the menu has both hits and misses, but the former are very good indeed.

7. Osteria Morini. Chef Michael White’s first casual Italian restaurant is dedicated to the hearty cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. Some of the dishes may seem over-bearing and unsubtle, but we liked just about everything we tried, even if the soundtrack is too loud and the paper napkins too cheap for the prices White is charging.

8. Manzo. If we were judging the food alone, we’d rate Mario Batali’s temple of Italian beef higher, but it’s smack dab in the middle of the city’s most crowded supermarket, Eataly. It is awfully expensive, for a space that is so unpleasant.

9. Riverpark. This is a “Tom Colicchio restaurant” that doesn’t charge Tom Colicchio prices. His former sandwich guy, Sisha Ortuzar, turns out to be a fine chef. But how many people will become regulars at a place that’s half-a-mile from the nearest subway station? We sure won’t.

10. Taureau. Chef Didier Pawlicki (of La Sirène) opened this all-fondue joint to very little critical notice. We loved our meal, but we’re not going to return regularly for such a limited menu. Still, we think it’s a great date place. There’s nothing like cooking raw meat in a shared pot of boiling oil to bring people closer.


Honorable Mentions: There are a few notable places that didn’t make our list, that nevertheless deserve a word or two.

1. Anfora. This quickly became my go-to wine bar after it opened in May. I probably visited fifteen or twenty times. But unlike some wine bars, the food menu here is too limited to qualify Anfora as a real restaurant. That’s why it didn’t make my top ten.

2. Maialino. Danny Meyer’s Roman Trattoria actually opened in late 2009, and we reviewed it in December, but most of the pro critics reviewed it this year, so you’ll probably see it on a lot of Top Ten lists. Our own meal there was slightly disappointing, but it was probably atypical, as Meyer’s restaurants tend to get better over time.

3. Má Pêche. You’ll definitely see David Chang’s first midtown restaurant on most critics’ top-ten lists, despite the fact that hardly anyone thought he had improved upon, or even equaled, what he’d achieved in the East Village. But in a bad year, Chang’s seconds are still pretty good. I dined here three times, and will again, but the review meal was not that great, although I hear the menu has changed a lot since then.

4. Recette. Jesse Schenker’s small-plates restaurant will also be on a lot of top-ten lists. I liked everything I tried; by the same token, I can’t actually remember any of it without re-reading my own review. It lacked (for me) any of the more memorable dishes from our top-ten list.

5. Terroir Tribeca. This was my other go-to wine bar, and unlike Anfora, it does have enough of a menu to qualify as a real restaurant. It doesn’t make the top ten because it’s practically the same as Terroir in the East Village, which opened in 2008. (Tamarind Tribeca, which does make our top ten, is quite a bit different from the original Tamarind in the Flatiron District.)



There’s plenty of great cooking in New York, but I am not often floored. I was floored on Friday by the quality of our meal at Millesime, the new French seafood restaurant in the Carlton Hotel, where Country used to be.

I don’t know if Millesime is the new restaurant of the year, but it certainly is the best restaurant that no one is talking about.

It is hard to over-state the obstacles that Millesime must overcome. I mentioned some of them in my review of the downstairs lounge, Salon Millesime, but they bear repeating:

  1. A name most people can’t pronounce (roughly: MEEL-eh ZEEM-eh)
  2. A location dead to foot traffic, and poorly served by transit
  3. A cuisine that is not currently fashionable
  4. A genre not favored by the city’s major critics
  5. A chef without name recognition in New York

That Laurent Manrique isn’t better known is a product of poor memories and east coast bias. He was named chef at Peacock Alley in 1992, at the age of 26. After five years, he moved onto Gertrude’s, where he was named Bon Appetit Rising Star Chef of 1998. A year later, he left New York for San Francisco, eventually winning two Michelin stars at Aqua for three consecutive years, 2007–2009. (He later left the restaurant in a dispute with management.)

If he’d done all that in New York, he’d be a household name in this town—at least among those who follow the restaurant business. But as he hasn’t worked here since the end of the last century, most of the city’s diners have no knowledge of him.

At Millesime (French for vintage), he’s clearly aiming for a vibe more casual than Aqua, and far more casual than the previous occupant, Country. The space has been brightened up, in the brasserie style. It remains one of the city’s most theatrically grand spaces, thanks to the overhead Tiffany skylight.

Most of the entrées are in the $20s, most of the appetizers in the low teens. Still, it pains me to suggest that the menu might intimidate diners not familiar with “Pike Quenelles Jean Louis Dumonet Style,” or the three preparations of potato on offer (all $5): Mousseline, Salardaises, or Paillasson.

Most of the menu choices are translated, but I fear that diners will associate French with old-school formality, even if that’s neither valid nor fair. Somehow, I don’t think an all-Italian menu would have that effect.

There are no amuses bouches or petits fours here, but everything we tasted was executed flawlessly. If the rest of the menu is as good, this is three-star food, though slightly undermined by service that is eager but not yet quite polished. Warm bread straight from the oven was so captivating that even the chefs couldn’t help snacking on it. It’s too bad they didn’t notice that the butter on our table had come out of the fridge, and was hard as a rock.

I haven’t encountered this dish in any French restaurant: Harengs Pommes A L’Huile ($15; above left & center). That’s a spray of warm fingerling potatoes, with a salad of smoked herring, which you combine at the table. It’s a lovely dish, but one I associate with Scandinavia, not France.

Those Pike Quenelles Jean Louis Dumonet Style ($14; above right) were perfect, putting to shame the chalky ones I was served at La Grenouille a few years ago. The Dumonet style, I am assuming, refers to the rich lobster broth in which they’re served.

The market fish for two changes daily—here Monkfish ($41; above), presented to the table and returned to the kitchen for plating. If you’re going to offer just one market special, it takes some courage to choose monkfish, which is better known as the poor man’s alternative to lobster. But as presented here, monkfish needed no apologies: it had a rich flavor of its own.

The side dishes, too, were faultless: the Potatoes Salardaises ($5; above left) and the Creamy Spinach ($6; above center). An Apple Crumble ($9; above right) was just fine, but perhaps the least memorable dish of the evening.

The food bill was $90 for two. By a wide margin, this is the best food I’ve had at under $50 per head, bearing favorable comparisons to restaurants that charge twice that.

The bargain is undermined by the wine list, which had no bottles (even of white wine) below $55. A restaurant in Millesime’s price range needs drinkable whites in the $40–45 range. Moreover, when I ordered the 2006 Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay, it was the 2007 vintage that came out (at the same price, $80), which they realized only when I pointed it out.

Wine lists have a way of sorting themselves out: when the management sees what is not being ordered, they adjust. Still, it is a blunder at a restaurant that can ill afford that kind of mistake.

As now configured, the space has more tables than Country did, and on a Friday evening it was no better than 20 percent full. The restaurant had the usual media splash in the major blogs, but as we noted above, diners don’t fight for reservations to a French seafood restaurant on Madison Avenue, from a chef who won Michelin stars in California.

They should.

Millesime (90 Madison Avenue at 29th Street, Gramercy/Flatiron)

Food: ★★½
Service: ★★
Ambiance: ★★
Overall: ★★½


Salon Millesime

Millesime is the French seafood restaurant that will take over the old Country space in the Carleton Hotel. The fine dining room on the gorgeous second floor is slated for a vague “fall” opening (which means anytime in the next year). The former Café, now called “Salon Millesime,” is open now.

The challenges here are enormous, starting with a name nobody can pronounce (roughly, it’s MEEL-eh ZEEM-eh). And these aren’t the best times for high-end French food, which most of the city’s critics don’t understand, especially coming from a chef (Laurent Manrique) who made his name on the left coast. New York is tough, tough, tough, on outsiders.

The location is problematic too, a dead-zone for foot traffic. With enough buzz, you can attract an audience just about anywhere; getting noticed is the hard part. The “Salon” was sparsely populated at 6:30 p.m. on a Friday evening. Perhaps it gets more lively later on. Then again, maybe the word simply hasn’t gotten out.

The spectacular bi-level space that David Rockwell designed for Country is mostly intact, except that the bar in the middle of what was the café, has been removed in favor of a raised platform with a piano, where live music will be heard many evenings. (The space still has two other bars.) On Friday night, the band was just getting set up at around 7:30 p.m., when we were getting ready to leave.

The menu downstairs consists mainly of sandwiches and bar snacks, none more than $16, and they are much better than one has any right to expect. We tried five items, and there wasn’t a dud among them.

Crispy bacon ($4; left) was one of the best bar snacks I’ve tried all year, baked like a hard cracker, loaded with spices, and served in a basket.


Tuna tartare ($15; above left) comes with Moroccan spices, dates, almonds, and lemon, which the server mixes tableside. It was just fine, but probably the most pedestrian dish we tried. Pork Belly Lollipops ($14; above right) come on skewers with a bracing red pepper relish.


The menu didn’t identify the mix of seasonings and spices that elevated a Foie Gras Terrine ($16; above left), well above most others served in town. It was served with warm, toasted country bread and the two craziest spreading knives you’ll ever see. Profiteroles (above right) were wonderful, and at $7 the bargain of the evening.

The wine list is nothing to write home about, as the Salon no doubt expects to make most of its money on mixed drinks. A recent vintage VdP Syrah was fine, but at $58 over-priced for the space. Service was much more attentive and polished than I expected in lounge environment.

The menu at Salon Millesime is too limited to warrant a full review, but everything we tried was top-notch, and that does not happen by accident. If the staff can do as well in the main dining room, Millesime ought to be excellent. The question is, who will notice?

Salon Millesime (90 Madison Avenue at 29th Street, Gramercy/Flatiron)