Great expectations

Posted by Anita on 06.29.06 9:39 AM

We’ve talked about going to Chanterelle for years, ever since we bought David Waltuck’s Staff Meals cookbook and fell in love. Anyone who cooks this well for their own employees, we reasoned, must do truly amazing things for their diners.

We’ve been to NYC a few times over the years, but something always conspired to keep us from visiting Chanterelle. We were determined that this time, we’d go. And so, exactly a month before our arrival, I called and made a reservation.

And now we’re here. Since it’s about a gillion degrees outside — and probably a gillion and twenty in the subway — we sprung for taxi from the flat we’re renting with family, determined to arrive relaxed and cool. The driver dropped us at the corner, and we spent a few puzzled minutes trying to find the place. Surely it couldn’t be the unmarked place over there that looks like a gay banker’s boudoir?

But, indeed it is. The atmosphere is odd — the gauzy balloon shades covering the windows look like they haven’t gotten an update since the place opened in the 80s, and the wide-open room seems sparse, not elegant. No banquettes or booths… just a few tables, overly fragrant floral arrangements, acres of plush carpet, and deathly silence. Very much the old-school stuffy French restaurant vibe: I kept expecting John Belushi to pop up and ask “how much for your weemin? how much for the leetle girl?”

We opted for the tasting menu and wine pairings. I’ll try to find the copy of the menu that they gave us — unrequested, I might add — and report back. At the moment, though, nothing really stands out about the food, other than that the foie gras course was appropriately sized (unlike the usual trying-too-hard gigantic slabs that ruin your appetite for the rest of the meal), the cheese trolley selections were impressive, and the basil souffle for dessert was very strange. Service was good overall, with a few glitches: More than once, our wines didn’t make it to the table before the course they were supposed to accompany; we got served the same wine twice — once with the foie and once with dessert — by mistake; and we kept getting handed from server to server when our main waiter would disappear.

In short, it just wasn’t quite the impressive experience you’d expect at these high prices. And high prices they are: We spent almost $600 for two, after tax and tip. Nothing was bad, almost everything was quite good, but nothing was amazing, stunning, or otherwise impressive. And frankly, I’d rather have three $200 meals — or two trips to the French Laundry — than eat here again.

2 Harrison Street
New York, NY 10013

cookbooks, NYC, restaurants
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