Entries in Taureau (2)


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.)



One-dish restaurants are all the rage, so why not all-fondue, all-the-time? As of three months ago, you can have it at Taureau in the East Village.

When we say “all-fondue,” we’re not kidding. To paraphrase W. S. Gilbert: fondue for starter, fondue for entrée, fondue for dessert—to have it supposed that you care for nothing but fondue, and that you would consider yourself insulted if anything but fondue were offered to you—how would you like that?

Well, you might expect fondue’s charms to wane over the course of a meal, but chef Didier Pawlicki mines enough from the theme to keep it exciting—at least for one visit. I cannot imagine it becoming anyone’s neighborhood go-to place, but for occasions ranging from romantic twosomes to large parties, it is already a hit. There’s nothing like cooking raw meat in a shared pot of boiling oil to bring people closer.

Like the same chef’s La Sirène, it’s the barest slip of a space, seating only 38. Each table has a built-in convection burner, leaving very little room to spare.

It is also BYOB, and at least for now, cash-only. If you don’t know the policy or forget the wine at home (as I did), the liquor store and Citibank are only a few blocks away.

The most straightforward ordering strategy is to choose one of two prix fixes, at either $37 or $57 per person, with a minimum of two. (Practically everything served here requires at least two people.) Either way, you get cheese fondue to start, meat fondue as the main course, and chocolate fondue for dessert. There’s still a dizzying array of choices (more offered at the higher price)—which cheese? what kind of oil? what chocolate? You could certainly eat here half-a-dozen times without exhausting the menu.

All of this (and a lot more) is available à la carte, although if you order three courses it will cost you considerably more than the prix fixe. We ordered the $57 menu, which comes with enough food to sate almost anyone.

We started with Perigord Cheese & Truffle Mushroom fondue, which comes with a choice of four “sides” for dipping. We chose the white asparagus, hot chorizo, slab bacon, and fingerling potatoes. It also includes a forgettable green salad and croutons, also for dipping. (The lower-priced prix fixe offers only the salad and croutons.)

The melted cheese itself was rich and luscious. The bacon was the best side dish, and the potatoes also worked well. The asparagus didn’t really pair with the cheese, while the chorizo (cold and clammy) simply wasn’t that good.

For the main course, there’s a choice of oils—we chose peanut—plus four house-made dipping sauces. Our prix fixe came with two meats: we chose pork tenderloin and filet mignon. You can probably guess the drill: dip the meat into the oil, where it cooks in about twenty seconds. Dip in sauce, and repeat. Simple pleasures.

The main course comes once again with the same forgettable green salad, which the chef might want to consider omitting. We didn’t touch it the second time.

Dessert is similar: your choice of chocolate, with a tray of fruits for dipping, and on the side, bowls of shredded coconut, almonds, and walnuts. It’s a can’t-miss dish, but we especially liked the frozen bananas (above, foreground).

The service team consists of the chef himself and two very busy servers, who manage to keep things moving briskly. It helps that the kitchen has very little actual cooking to do. The whole production takes around two hours, though you might spend the first twenty minutes of that just puzzling over the unfamiliar menu.

Pawlicki’s mission here may not be complicated, but he does it very well, and in New York he has the idea all to himself. It’s not food you can eat every day—it’s too rich and too monotonic for that—but it’s loads of fun and thoroughly worthwhile.

Taureau (127 E. Seventh St., West of Avenue A, East Village)

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