Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Marc Forgione

Marc Forgione's eponymous restaurant is a superb urban restaurant crafted to look like the inside of a farm house. The inside glows with countless flickering candles set both on tables and above, hanging from large metal chandeliers. The wooden walls filled with assorted books and trinkets further enhance the sensation of having been transported from Tribeca to Forgione's place in the country. (The mood is somewhat disturbed by the bright open door to the kitchen, however).

The food is ostensibly American but really it has elements of European cuisine - Italian and French, in particular - as well as some Southeast Asian flavors. It is sophisticated but still casual; perhaps Forgione's restaurant aspires to be a neighborhood locale and why not, the residents of Tribeca can certainly afford it. Unlike some other expensive restaurants, most of the patrons here are young professionals who obviously have money to spend but want to do it in a casual setting; the candle-lit decor also makes it a prime setting for dates.

The spectacular chicken under a brick for two
A portion for one

The best dish on the menu is an incredibly succulent chicken under a brick for two. Chicken is making a comeback these days, with notable new variants at Pok Pok, the NoMad, and Kutcher's. Chicken under a brick is an Italian recipe (pollo al mattone) and it excels in its seeming simplicity: crisp chicken is served with potatoes and broccoli rabe in a large heavy iron pan with crispy shallots, chili flakes, and herbs.

A lot of work went into this bird, however, as you can immediately see that all the bones are removed except the drum stick. It is unbelievably flavorful; the heavy brick allows the chicken to be crispy on the outside while retaining moisture on the inside. The broccoli rabe is probably unnecessary and kinda limp, but I guess it adds some color. At $58 for two, the dish is a decent deal as well.

Fluke sashimi with ramp pesto and fried shallots (L); kampachi tartare with avocado and Sichuan buttons

Other dishes show Forgione's experimentation with complex flavors and textures. Two appetizers take very different routes with raw fish:

A fluke sashimi with ramp pesto and fried shallots, for example, showed his ability to combine multiple flavor profiles into a surprisingly successful dish; ramps tend to have a strong flavor and the fluke is mild but the dish somehow came together well. The kampachi tartare, with avocado, Sichuan buttons, toasted pinenuts, and homemade chips showed another combination of American and Asian cuisine. The numbing Sichuan buttons are served on a spoon and eaten before diving into the tartare, giving it an interesting mouth feel. The tartare itself has a nice citrus and soy broth.
Agnolotti with morels

Less successful was a plate of morel agnolotti - the agnolotti was good and a bit delicate but the dominant flavor of butter tended to drown out the morels.

The chili lobster is also an excellent appetizer. It's essentially his take on the Asian chili crabs dish but with lobsters and Texas toast instead of crabs and steamed buns. It's served in a gingery-sriracha broth.

If you really want a splurge, there's a gigantic steak almost always available as a special: a 28-day aged, "tomahawk" or "cowboy" ribeye for 2-3 people with marrow, compound butter, and assorted vegetables like "carrot glazed carrot." Usually for $99, it's one of the better steaks in the city.

For dessert, 10 minutes cookies with milk are exactly what they sound like: warm and delicious chocolate chip cookies served with milk; good comfort food after an excellent meal.

Marc Forgione
134 Reade Street (Hudson Street)
New York, NY 10013
(212) 941-9401
marcforgione.com

Recommended dishes: Fluke sashimi, Chili lobster, Chicken under a brick for two, Tomahawk steak, 10 minute cookies.


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