Picholine, meaning olives, is accredited 2 star Michelin French restaurant in the upper west side New York City. From the moment I walked in, I fell in love with the elegant setting of hanging chandeliers and soft lavender and cream colour tone. It provides both great ambience and service that, if I lived in New York, this would probably be my favourite lunch spot.
Their dining options include a tasting menu, prix fixe menu, as well as a la carte for dinner. For lunch, we were tempting to order the 7 course tasting menu. But since the menu is fixed, we each ordered the 2 course prix fixe for $28 with additional course for $12 to sample more food instead.
I sort of regret not ordering their cheese plate after learning that it is what the New York Times called "the best cheese presentation in the city". Even the manager asked us, "no cheese today?" and I declined. Why, what was I thinking? I obviously wasn't.
For the amuse bouche, we were given a plate of crispy parsnip and butternut squash panna cotta with chopped cocoa and almonds. Although, I overheard a discrepancy that it was pumpkin at another table. Anyways, it was light, dessert-like appetizer, but not too sweet.
I was hoping to taste something new and different and this dish definitely delivered. The Tuna Napoleon, only described as "the taste of Riviera" was the most unique and the delicious dish I've had in years. Fresh tuna slices layered between two crispy crackers (I'm not sure what those were) served with olive oil ice cream over eggplant puree. I had no idea how raw fish and ice cream would taste together. But when I tried them all together, it was divine, thanks to the multi-leveled textures and aiding spices. The tuna pieces melt in your mouth together with the coolness of the ice cream. More flavours came out as chewing is enhanced by crunchy texture from the crackers and creaminess from the eggplant puree. The more you chew, the more you taste the spice from chili flakes, and saltiness from the seasoning. But, in the end, they are all balanced in harmony by the sweetness of the creamy ice cream. The great thing about this dish is how complex it really is in flavours and textures. You start off with a flavour and end of in a totally different note, while going through 3 different textures at the same time. It just blew me away. Truly an amazing dish. The next dish to come had a lot to live up to.
This following dish, the Pained Hills Farm Sirloin, also met the expectation but didn't go well beyond. The sirloin was cooked medium rare, but it wasn't that well-seasoned. Coming from Alberta, I have very high expectations when it comes to steak. The Béarnaise cloud was light and fluffy. The creamed spinach was much too salty and it had to be consumed at the same time with both the fried onion, and the steak to ease out the intensity. All that was missing was a bun and it would've been a really good steak sandwich.
The final entree was the Squid Ink Fideos (vermicelli) served with prawns and topped with Pimenton (spanish paprika) aioli. I think I would've appreciated it more, if I wasn't born and raised in Thailand. With my experience, this dish tastes EXACTLY like a thai street dish called "Pad See Ew" which is stir-fried noodles in soya sauce. Needless to say, I didn't love this dish either and was a bit disappointed at how "Asian" it tasted. I'm sure it was more coincidental with the ingredients they used, but I was expecting a much more elegant dish. As I think back, there is a place in Pattaya, Thailand that makes a killer creamy and spicy squid ink pasta. It was much better there.
After the entrees, we were presented with house made assorted chocolates. They were delicious.
Citrus tasting arrived in 3 parts; orange crepes, creamy citrus meringue, and grapefruit sorbet. The orange crepe arrived in thin crispy biscuit forms layered with lemon diplomat and topped with "lime caviar". The grapefruit sorbet was extremely refreshing. I enjoyed this dessert much more than the squid ink fideos.
Last but not least, Pear "Belle Hellene" consisted of sweet poached pear with chocolate soup and mascarpone sorbet. The chocolate soup was quite thick and rich, but not too sweet.
Overall, I love the overall elegant setting and attentive service. Food wise, the majority of the dishes we ordered were good for a restaurant at this calibre, though we expected much more. Even though the main courses didn't impress me that much, the Tuna Napoleon was really something special.