Le Chateaubriand isnít as cute or as packed as it was on my first visit in September. In fact, getting a reservation was easy to snare and even on a Saturday night there were empty seats and no 'scene.' I was curious. Had it gone down hill already?
In beautiful handwriting, the chalkboard listed the greatest hits of natural wine making. The names got me salivating. Souhaut, D&R, the Morgon boys, every big rock star winemaker from the Loire. In the end they actually had very little selection and most were pretty pedestrian. I realized the staff knew nothing about wine and couldn't care less about wine except they knew that natural was hip. Oh, the wine pretense. Spare me.
I was there with Juliette from Gramercy Tavern. After a torturous process we decided on a not badly priced Les Mortiers, (Pineau d'Aunis from Christian Chaussard).
Hey, call me silly, but doesn't the kitchen god live in the details?
Bread came. This was far inferior to the sour, dense bread of my first visit. On that first visit they brought butter (delicious stuff) unbidden. This time I had to ask. In response I got a sneer of surprise and then a piece of butter as cold and hard as an apple hanging on the tree in January.
Juliette started with a gorgeous plate of stuffed squid: puffed out white balloons, with the ink in a puddle it looked like a white and dark chocolate dessert. I had the only dish I could have, endive. Braised and caramelized, endive. I can only imagine it was going for a marrowbone effect; it was tender and almost slurpable.
That would have been enough. The waiter insisted the 'chef' make me something.
Nice thought, but too bad it was a pandering execution.
Years back I was writing a piece on vegetarian tastings menus and visited the restaurant Verbena. The waiter told that the chef Diane Forley made me something I was going to 'flip,' for.' The dish turned out to be a horrifyingly bland bowl steamed vegetables and wheat berries in a tasteless broth. Just because I don't eat meat doesn't mean I like bland, brown food. But sometimes that is the impression of a chef. Lately there is such a backlash on meat-free eaters; I'm beginning to get a bit of a complex.
It takes a brave chef to respect a non-meat eater.
Inaki Aizpitarte's doesn't seem to be brave, either that or his mother who he hated was a vegetarian because what I got was the "Diane Forley vegetarian's nightmare reprise."
I refer to a plate of boiled vegetables, extremely artfully plated.
I had the opportunity to go back the next week. I declined. Went to La Verre Voll instead. Had a great time. Delicious bread, olive oil and butter. Great little details and they knew wine. No contest.