With so many different places to eat well in the city, why would someone return to the same place more than once? I suppose one answer would be that we are habitual and we seek familiarity. Another reason might be because of a particular restaurant’s consistent quality. For whatever reason, we returned again last night to Artisanal for a hearty bistro meal. Manchego will by now be perking up because, as all cheese heads know, Artisanal is one of the premier fromageries in New York.
From the time we walked into the place until we left, the reek of ripe, ripening and aged cheese swathed us in its warm clammy embrace. The room is huge with tables on top of one another and with a noise level slightly louder than the No. 4 subway station at Grand Central. In the back is the famous cheese cave where the frommage oompa lumpas coddle their rinds. Music may have been playing in the background but I never heard it. The service was curt but respectful and our meal was neither too rushed nor excessively slow.
Our party of four sat in a central location but sadly, cannot report any celebrity sightings. Given the short distance between tables, however we were, unfortunately, able to listen in on all of the other conversations taking place around us. But that’s just the set up. Why do we go out? To eat of course.
We started with a very nice (cheap, oh so cheap) bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, then another, etc. and tasty Gougers served hot in a paper cone. Next we shared appetizers of sausage, rabbit and foie gras, quince paste, figs and lightly dressed greens. Fresh baked bread from Rachael’s and premium rocket-your-HTML-level butter accompanied the whole shebang.
For our entrées we had, going clockwise from the left, cassoulet, monkfish, braised duck and again cassoulet; all were delicious. We topped off the meal with mint tea and the table shared a tarte tatin with cheddar cheese crust.
Manchego now goes back to the beginning and searches for the cheese course, which, perhaps, has been inadvertently edited out.
Alas, we passed on the cheese. With the exception of the Gougers and the cheese in the pastry crust – we ate no cheese. We had no fondue, no Selles sur Cher, Artisanal, not even a small cabecou feuille.
In truth, the bistro portions overwhelmed us and by meal’s end we didn’t have the heart to select and then eat more. So shoot me why don’t cha?
New York now has so many good quality imported, local and hand-made cheeses that the city is lousy with the stuff. There was a time when you could only get your Velveta in either slices or in great yellow bricks. Now, on any Saturday morning at the local green market, we find smiling craftsmen from upstate who offer wonderful, leaf-wrapped, oozing, stinky globs of cheesy pudding. Even our local every-day supplier has a store that we can literally see from our front stoop. Her selection of cheeses is remarkably overwhelming and plentiful.
Notwithstanding the cheese pass, we had a brilliant meal.
Champurrado rating: 2 tamales