For my birthday dinner, Adam took me to Central. The restaurant won the 2008 James Beard award for Best New Restaurant, and Chef Richard was one of the first chefs in the country to offer a bistro edition to his classically French “haute cuisine” Citronelle. I personally enjoy this phenomenon because, as evidenced by this blog, we eat out quite a bit. My bank account can’t afford $150+ pre fixed menus all the time. Sometimes you want to enjoy the creations of a chef, without taking out a loan.
After looking at the menu, we decided to begin with soup, and then move onto our entrees. But wait, what’s this? Cheese puffs! A dinner that starts with gougères can’t be bad. Little tiny packages of “crispy on the outside” but “fluffy on the inside” dough and cheese that melt in your mouth. My only complaint; they came out too close to our soup course. The soup needed to be enjoyed hot, which caused us to loose some of the enjoyment of eating all the puffs still warm from the oven.
For the main course, Adam ordered the fried chicken, and I chose the steak tartare. The chicken was cooked well, with the right balance between moist meat and extra crispy skin and breading. As with most French chefs, the sauce (chicken gravy in this case) was what made the dish.
I was venturing into new territory with my tartare. The only tartare I have had before has been seafood. What I love about those dishes is the fresh taste you get from good ingredients. My steak tartare was exactly that. The flavors of a well cooked filet were there, but intensified by the herbs, seasoning, and completely fresh meat.
Our service during the meal was good – we were seated next to a family that knew our server, and it felt like we were having a meal at someone’s home. Everyone was friendly and engaging, and while we enjoyed the atmosphere, nothing jumped out as exceptional.
The most interesting part of the meal was that Chef Richard spent the evening dining and conducting business in the restaurant a couple tables over. I didn’t catch what he ordered for dinner, but he and Adam share the same taste in beer.