Note: Picholine closed in 2015 after 22 years in business, due to a rent increase. The announcement was bittersweet, coming the very day that Picholine was awarded a star in the 2016 Michelin Guide. The chef, Terrance Brennan, said he would re-open it in a new location to be determined.
Picholine is 15 years old, and to “celebrate” they were offering a $50 gift card via the website. That’s a nice chunk of change, even for a restaurant this expensive. And I suppose the offer (which is no longer available) shows that it’s getting harder to find customers in these recession-challenged times. Sure enough, when my mom and I dropped in for a pre-opera meal, Picholine was as quiet as I’ve ever seen it—not deserted, but nowhere near full.
Apparently, chef–owner Terrance Brennan is not yet tempted to lower his prices. Since our last visit, earlier this year, the three-course prix fixe has risen from $85 to $92, while the tasting menu has risen from $110 to $125. A game tasting menu, offered only in the fall, is $145. I wouldn’t mind giving that a try at some point, but this wasn’t the night for it.
The mauve décor made a better impression than it did last time; perhaps it’s more successful in the front room than in the rear. Just about everything about the service and ambiance seemed pitch-perfect, though it helped that the restaurant was less crowded than I’ve seen it before. My mom couldn’t get over how many servers and runners were buzzing around.
A quartet of amuses-bouches was more impressive than the trio we were offered last time. I didn’t note them all, but the one on the right (above) was a tempura mushroom on a skewer.
A Tuna Cru “Napoleon” (above left) with olive oil ice cream was just fine, but unmemorable. My mom had the Sea Urchin Panna Cotta (above right), which is one of the best things on the menu.
The server recited a choice of four Scottish game birds—partridge, grouse, quail and Mallard duck. (He did not mention the $8 supplement.) I had the duck, which was really terrific—tender and gamey, along with a crunchy leg confit. My mom had a fish, which I believe was the John Dory (above right). From the small taste I had, it seemed pedestrian. My mom didn’t use that word, but she agreed the duck was better.
The palate cleansers were served in an odd order. As I was having the cheese course, but my mom was not, hers came before the dessert (above left), but mine came after it. Anyhow, the cheese cart (above right) is always the highlight of a meal at Picholine. I told the fromagier that I wanted three cheeses with sharp tastes, soft to medium in texture, and at least one blue cheese.
And that’s exactly what he gave me (above left). My mom’s dessert was a chocolate something-or-other (above right).
My palate cleanser (above left) came after the cheese course, and that was followed by petits-fours, which we did not touch (above right). They sent us home with a complimentary bottle of olive oil, which I do not recall from previous visits.
The wine list here is wonderful, though it seemed shorter than I remembered it. Anyhow, I found a perfectly drinkable Guigal Côtes du Rhone for $45. After you figure in the $50 gift card, it basically means we had a great dinner at Picholine and drank for free. Not bad.
Picholine (35 W. 64th St. east of Columbus Avenue, Upper West Side)