Gentleman Farmer - May 28, 2011
For a farmer, even for a leisurely and a gentlemanly one, it seemed that his sense of season was not well attuned to the changes in nature. The menu was comprised of an eclectic selection of farm animals – pheasant, rabbit, snails, duck and foie gras – and wilder ones - venison, wild boar, bison and ostrich – although with today’s technology, I suppose you can just about farm almost anything anytime, except for an unsightly fungus called truffle. Nonetheless, a wild boar is quintessentially a winter dish, is it not?
This quaint restaurant used Laquiole silverware. This was noteworthy and admirable: I am not fussy about the décor or anything in a restaurant that does not enter my mouth; however, silverware, not only do they enter into my mouth, they are necessary to transport the food into my mouth. And yet, the quality of utensils in New York is lamentable: plates are well-aged with multi-scratches and spoons and forks are self-bending even without the assistance of Uri Geller.
Lobster Tail - White truffle, beurre blanc, frisée, lardoons
The thick smear of beurre banc on the lobster uncomfortably resembled crème pâtissière in texture and, unfortunately in its sweetness as well. The diced lardoons added the missing salt, but not quite enough to balance off the sugar. The same heavy, sweet hand, however, did well with the frisée salad for the sweet balsamic vinaigrette, which knocked off the bitterness of the frisée. The tail itself was too soft, which raised the suspicion of the quality of the lobster – old or lousy or both (this seems to be recurring problem as others have pointed it out).
Bison Tartar - Béarnaise mousse, capers, quail egg
The meat was diced, not ground, which allowed the diner to savor the texture of the lean but tender bison more. The bison tasted quite wild with a strong gamey scent; but it was offset by the sweet and sour béarnaise mousse – which was more like a relish for the inclusion of chunky diced pickles. The boost from the chili and hot sauce cut off some of the sweetness of the mousse. Indeed, the chef seemed to have quite a fixation on the sugar pot: he had managed to spoon the maximum amount of sugar into each dish as still could avoid being listed under dessert. The accompanying toast, lightly brushed with oil, provided a thoroughly satisfactory crunch.
Braised Rabbit - Baby carrots, boiler onions, green beans, white wine, basil
Question on taste experiment: What food do the following combinations resemble?
1) Cucumbers + Honey
2) Flan + Soy sauce
3) Fermented soy beans + Cream
Answers: 1) Melon, 2) Sea urchin, 3) Peanut butter.
Question: Cream + Dried basil = ?
By the way, there is a scientific reason why these food combinations taste like melon, sea urchin and peanut butter, respectively, as it was explained in a special exhibit by the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Japan. What then, do you think, the combination of cream and dried basil will taste like? The tantalizing answer is tea with milk - especially the kind that you make with a lot of milk, like chai (not masala chai which has spices). Given the chef’s tendency to lean a little too heavily into the sugar pot, the sauce really did taste like a cup of tea.
Putting the fun aside, the real question is: Did it go with the rabbit? Actually, it did. I am not advising you to try serving rabbits à la chai to your dinner guests next time, although the sweet milky taste did enrich the neutral and lean rabbit meat. In any case, if you do try, do not forget to add some wine and shallots into your sauce as they added complexity and depth to the rabbit at Gentleman Farmer. The carrots and beans were lovingly tender and buttery. I am sure the boiler onion was prepared in the same way with love and care and would have tasted just as good, if it had only been fresh, rather than spoiled.
Wild Boar - Tarbais beans, parsnips, prune confit
The wild boar proved to be quite wild and rebellious as the chop was one of toughest meat that I had to chew in the last five years; or, it was simply over-roasted. The sauce of jus and prune confit, yet again, suffered a spill from the sugar pot. The half-mashed tarbais beans and parsnips were ingenuous for the novel and noble combination: the herbal earthiness of the parsnips supplemented the sweet and starchy tarbais beans and created a farmer’s bouquet on the palate and a seriously filling side dish fit for a real farmer. Dabbing a little of the sweet prune sauce brought out the flavors of the beans and parsnips even more.
Address: 40 Rivington Street, New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 677-2172