When reviewing New York City's Le Restaurant, hidden in the basement of a Tribeca food market called All Good Things, The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells begins with the bad news: Aside from the restaurant’s basement location, "it is closed four nights out of seven. Its sole offering is a $100 tasting menu that is not posted in advance. Substitutions are not allowed. And the name is impossible to say with a straight face," Wells says.
"The blond furniture, the pair of white candles suspended from a long row of wooden coat pegs, and the smell of wood smoke all transport you out of New York to some other place — maybe a soothing, if somber, cabin by a Swedish lake." Now, the good news: It’s a "cozy place." "The blond furniture, the pair of white candles suspended from a long row of wooden coat pegs, and the smell of wood smoke all transport you out of New York to some other place — maybe a soothing, if somber, cabin by a Swedish lake," he says. The restaurant will also soon be extending its hours to five days a week.
As for the cuisine, Wells says, "If you are an omnivore, if you dream about uncommon ingredients and pure, focused flavors, then Ryan Tate’s tasting menus are absolutely worth it." He began the dinner with "salmon mousse sandwiched between airy fennel-seed meringues." "The flavors were gentle, but they got my attention," he says of the dish. The next course, "gooseneck barnacles, long tubes ending in multifaceted beaks" that "looked like the sawed-off legs of a Victorian piano," "drew [him] in deeper." The third course was "half of a roasted bird" with "one leg stretched out, its foot curled in," or a woodcock. "That foot was weird but the meat was good, ruddy, juicy, and strong," he says. Finally, he tried water buffalo: "The soft and mild roasted loin wasn’t as deeply satisfying as beef or bison, but still I went home wondering why we Americans eat the same three or four species almost every night and then complain that the main course wasn’t as interesting as the appetizer."
While Wells compliments the food and the coziness of the venue, he can’t do the same for the manner in which he was greeted. "I showed up without a reservation," he says. "The website had said walk-ins were welcome at the counter, but nobody seemed to know what to do with me. An employee in the market asked what I wanted and told me to wait at the top of the stairs. Five minutes went by. Finally, I started down on my own and was met halfway by a host. He seemed surprised and not entirely pleased to see me there."
But, for the most part, Wells says, "Service was unfailingly smooth and professional."
"At Le Restaurant you never know what’s coming next," he adds. "Menus, handwritten on construction paper, don’t arrive until dinner is over."
Wells ends with one more note about the restaurant’s name: "Mr. Tate said that he and Kyle Wittels, who owns All Good Things, called the place Le Restaurant 'to be somewhat funny.' So if you laugh, at least you’ll be laughing with them."
For Wells' full review, click here.