Petrossian Is About Caviar but Not ALL About Caviar

The New York City restaurant, run by the famous caviar family, offers refined French cooking in which caviar is only an accent

Photo Modified: Flickr/ Danielle Scott/ CCBY-SA4.0

Petrossian is located within the historic Alwyn Court Building. 

If I had to guess, I'd say that the New York City restaurant called Petrossian (there are branches in Los Angeles and Las Vegas) is a victim of its name. That name is shared, of course, with the premier caviar merchant also called Petrossian — which of course runs the restaurants — and that might be a problem.

Caviar is a luxury product. Caviar, even the lesser grades, is expensive. For the vast majority of us, caviar isn't what's for dinner. Why would we go to a caviar restaurant, then?

The surprise about Petrossian is that it isn't a caviar restaurant. Oh, there's plenty of caviar available, impeccably served, from 12 grams of Classic Transmontanus from California at $23 to 50 grams of Special Reserve Ossetra from various sources at $644 (there are also three-caviar tasting selections at $221, $312, and $510) — and caviar is used as an accent in a number of dishes. But the short, elegantly imagined menu, while hardly cheap, is not caviar-expensive. With appetizers priced at $19 to $38 (an outlier, involving tuna belly, foie gras, and caviar) and main dishes at $32 to $58 (another outlier, dry-aged New York strip steak with, er, caviar, and truffled pommes soufflés), it's in the same ballpark as such other upscale restaurants in the neighborhood as Marea and Porter House.

And the food, as prepared by Richard Farnabe — a veteran of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Mercer Kitchen and the Soho Grand Hotel, among other places (and onetime private chef for Tommy Hilfiger) — is French in inspiration, with lapidary presentations and intensely focused flavors.

An appetizer of langoustine tartare sandwiched between two paper-thin wafers and topped with Royal caviar was small in size but big in taste. A shimmering disk of celery and king crab mousse, into which was set an oblong of Transmontanus caviar, was sheer indulgence. A curious-sounding appetizer of spaghetti — tight, tiny coils of it — with a hint of Parmigiano, a hint of truffle sauce, and more Transmontanus caviar was simply exquisite.

A main-course pasta dish of tagliatelli with lobster, uni, and caviar wasn't as delicate or perfectly balanced but was still pretty good. A generous serving of charred lamb loin with shredded morels and black trumpet mushrooms didn't try to be delicate, but went for deep savory flavor, successfully.

There are a number of wines on the interesting mid-size list for under $50, unusual at a restaurant of this level, and the dining room. The dining room, with its Lalique glass and etched Erté mirrors looks like the kind of place the un-pourcent hangs out in the 8th or 16th arrondissement of Paris, though they'd be sitting on more opulent chairs and drinking from finer crystal.

In all, I'd say Petrossian should definitely be on the shortlist for anybody looking for a fine, and refined, dining experience in midtown Manhattan.