BISTRO DOMINIQUE Review - Paris in New York

The first time I saw Paris, I enjoyed the savory traditional onion soup I had been looking forward to all the way across the Atlantic. That delicious onion soup swarmed with tender caramelized onions afloat in a deep, rich broth blanketed by a mound of melted gruyere. It was memorable, even more so because we were dining under stars on a tour boat floating down the River Seine.

   

Step into a bit of Paris in New York

The last time I saw Paris, I had a miserable onion soup, highly forgettable.  The broth tasted like dishwater, the onions were barely cooked and the cheese was hard as rocks.  So it was with trepidation the other night that I tested the onion soup at Bistro Dominique in Greenwich Village in New York City.

 

Eggs Provencal

I went to  Dominique to sample the soufflé, for a preview of National Soufflé Day, Feb. 28h--- (more on that later).  Bistro Dominique on first glance is like any number of boites in the West Village, nice art on dark wood walls, long bar up front with tables on the opposite side and additional seating in the rear.  I’d expected a bare bones bistro menu but no, it had a lot more.  There were the expected dishes--mussels, snails, steak frites, ratatouille, croquet monsieur and croque madame-but there were also fois gras and chicken liver mousse among offerings not customarily found in modest bistro settings.

 

Foie gras

I opted for the fois gras ($19))as a starter.  It was crisp on the outside, seared to just the right degree, arriving on a mini-waffle and dressed with a sour cherry reduction, slivered apple slices and shredded arugula.  The dish was great though as I looked at a young lady at a nearby table devouring chunks of grilled baby octopus, I felt a pang of regret about my choice.  Maybe next time.

 

My companion, as ever, a dieter, had salad of mixed greens and then splurged for a  half order of cavatelli in a short rib ragu, dressed with root veggies and a whipped ricotta. She gave both items  a smiling thumbs up.

Mussels

    

Timing is everything as Chef Dominick Pepe (no relation to the restaurant name) told us.  The timing in this case applied to the bouillabaisse,($29) of a velvety consistency which I have never attained in my kitchen. With some modesty I will admit that I make a pretty good bouillabaisse, about three times a year, but Pepe takes a different approach.  First off, he’s got the timing down perfectly.  He puts the fish and seafood entries into the pot in order of cooking time, so that prawns, clams, mussels and snapper all came out tender--neither hard (overcooked as shellfish too often arrive) nor underdone, each having had its optimal time over fire.

 

     “But what gave the soup such a plush consistency?” I asked .

     “It’s the secret French ingredient,” Pepe winked.  “Butter.”

 

I pride myself on starting with a good strong stock, which my guests and I have always enjoyed.  I’ve always depended on a hearty base, the veggies, the seafood and the fish, and tomatoes, but he o pened my eyes to a different style of bouillabaisse--a less assertive, somewhat more appealing broth. It is worth another round.

 

Escargots

That brings us to dessert and the soufflé which lured me to Bistro Dominique. With the end of the month, National Soufflé Day puffs up on the horizon.  On that day, I was told, there will be all sorts of wonderful soufflés--raspberry, cherry, orange.  You make the call.

 

Steak tartare

The soufflé of my dreams floats to the table in a high-collared tureen with a huge, airy puff billowing over its sides. The server makes a hole in the top and douses the inside with fruit sauce or liqueur. That’s the soufflé I’ve enjoyed here and abroad and specifically at the late, lamented Capsuoto Freres on the far western edge of Tribeca.  That, to borrow from Michelin, was a soufflé worth a trip.

 

Mussels

Chef Pepe, it seems, follows a different vision. We had just one choice, a dark chocolate,  cupcake sized soufflé,($9) with no overflow, not so puffy and no poured addition.  Not that it wasn’t a pleasure to eat.  The chocolate was great, a bit melty once you cracked a brittle crust, more like a very moist brownie than my idea of a soufflé.  It is hard to differ with a chef who sets such a fine table, but then it’s a matter of concept.  Chef Pepe and I may disagree on soufflés, but not about anything else on his fanciful bistro menu.  As the French say, chacun à son goût.

    

Chocolate waffle (not the souffle)

PHONE

(646) 756-4145

LOCATION

14 Christopher street
West Village, NYC 10014

 

HOURS

M–Th 8a–12a
F –8a–1am
S– 8a–1a
Su– 8a–1

 

 

Photos: Courtesy of Bistro Dominique

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