*Pictures from yelp.com.
I forget the first time I went to Manhattan’s Artisanal Bistro. It’s a fromagerie expounded into an entire white-tablecloth restaurant, in a glorious Art Deco style building. The building alone is a reason to go here: it has cube-printed floors, overhead lights with Mondrian-style patterning across them, and supplementary posters framed on the wall. Everything is red, brown, and yellow like the colors of most of their entrees.
The first thing I did was go to the cheese counter. Your standard order is a 3-cheese platter. The cheeses are bought from America and Europe and are in regular rotation. I’m really impressed with how the people at the cheese counter can remember what cheese you ordered and tell your waiter without knowing your name or giving you a number. I had trouble remembering which cheese was which after I tried about five.
The waiter presents your cheese platter with a checklist. Your orders are checked and numbered in the order which you’re recommended to eat them. Here’s the cheese I ordered:
1.) Nettle Meadow Kunik (upstate NY): It’s a creamy, tart cheese, my favorite of the trio. It’s creamier than most cream cheeses and makes a great spread. I can imagine it being good in grilled cheese. It’s like Brie without the salt.
2.) Mimolette (France): A distinct cheese in both flavor and it’s orange color. It’s caramel-tinctured and fruity, and is very strong. It reminds me of parmesan. It’s very hard in texture and will break off in layers like pieces of sedimented limestone unless you cut it with a sharp knife.
3.) Bleu d’Auvergne (France): It’s semisoft and doesn’t break like most blue cheeses. But it’s way too salty for my taste.
They recommend cheese and wine pairings on your menu. The wine selection is almost as varied as the cheese counter. But despite how good the cheese is, the best thing I’ve had there (I am a vegetarian, so I haven’t tried it all) is the onion soup. It was featured in New York Magazine‘s best soups list. It’s a supreme four cheese blend bonanza with an abundance of caramelized onions underneath. You can taste the caramelization much better than in most versions, and the broth is rich and flavorful without the texture-oppressing little pieces of beef seen in many French onion soup juices.
The asparagus in lemon parmesan sauce wasn’t bad either: it defied its impulse to dessicate in the pan and remained juicy without becoming limp. My dad enjoyed his meal too: he said hanger steak generally isn’t exciting but they marinated it just right. For dessert we ordered cheesecake and Marquise au Chocolat- a dense square of chocolate mousse with vanilla salt on top. Both had a mod-looking curve of sweet sauce dots on the plate- mine was hazelnut praline cream. The desserts were okay, but not anywhere near as good as the cheese. They used to make a dessert out of vegetables that was phenomenal: basil ice cream atop a tomato tart. I wish they still did.
Overall, you’ll get just as much enjoyment out of the classic Art Deco building as you would from the cheese, not to mention that you can stop in anytime to buy cheese to take home.
Chef: Terrance Brennan
Recommended Dish: Onion Soup
Price Range: $45-$80 per person
Clientele: Everyone. They’ve been very busy every time I’ve gone there (again, my general trust in public taste has been justified).
2 Park Avenue (32nd Street)
New York, NY 10016
Cheese Counter: 212-532-4033