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Rosette – Reviewed

leeksWhy aren’t more people talking about Rosette?  New Yorkers can’t seem to get enough restaurant gossip, especially when it comes to openings (though we love a good chef shuffle, too).  Yet, Rosette has barely scratched the surface of our collective radar.   Which is good for the rest of us until word gets out to the foodie set.  And I’m pretty sure it will.

How could you keep an entree of Monkfish rolled in Vegetable Ash a secret?  It’s not a particularly pretty plate. It is rolled in ashes after all.   The ashes are the result of roasting cabbage, leeks, and beets in a sealed wood oven overnight.  It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted – intensely smoky & sweet.   The monkfish is roasted in the wood-fired oven and arranged with a leek & apple puree, oven-baked celeriac, a piquant dollop of pickled mustard seeds, and slivers of Asian pear – a terrifically blissful marriage of the most unlikely of partners. Rosette is all about the unexpected, which is what makes it so exciting.  Ever had a Clam Chowder Croquette?  Me neither, but boy do I crave them now.  I’m ruined by these warm, briny suckers, crusty with bread and panko on the outside, oozing with bacony clam goodness on the inside.  They come wading in a shallow puddle of tartar sauce, though truthfully they’re perfect on their own.  Speaking of firsts, I’ve also never had the pleasure of a Roasted Avocado before, but I’d happily make a habit of them now.  What arrives at the table is a halved avocado, crowned with a feisty dollop of chili yogurt, puffed rice for crunch, and oodles of bonito flakes for umami effect.

monkfish

Vegetable Ash-Rolled Monkfish

Who’s the eccentric chef behind these delicious oddities?  His name is Nick Curtin, and over the last few years, he’s been putting in time at various restaurants around the city, including Perry St., Compose, and Acme.  (He just recently staged at the acclaimed Meadowood in Napa, too.)  Rosette is the perfect stage for Curtin to strut his stuff with his New American menu.  He has a fondness for pushing boundaries, combining the most unexpected flavors and tinkering with texture.  Curtin turns vegetables into ashes, rice into crunchy little puffs, and soup into croquettes. Take his Ember Roasted Leeks, for example.  Curtin rolls the leeks in Beet Embers, roasts them in the oven, then brushes them with huckleberry jam, and showers them with puffed rice (perhaps he has a puffed rice fetish?).  The final touch is pecan butter painted on the bottom of the plate.  My only complaint was that the leeks were undercooked, which was a shame because the flavor combination was oddly successful.

Black Garlic & Anchovy Strip Steak

Black Garlic & Anchovy Strip Steak

But I have no complaints about a dreamy appetizer of Baby Octopus, bathed in a Squid Ink Emulsion.  They’re served on a pedestal of glutinous rice and sprinkled with peanuts.  It doesn’t exactly sound like traditional comfort food, but believe me, it’s comforting alright.   So is the homemade Apple Bacon Brioche, laced with a salty-sweet Apple Bacon Butter.  Lest I forget a standout salad of Bitter Greens, dressed in a zippy Horseradish Yogurt and topped with a crispy, Panko-Battered Poached Egg.   While I usually gravitate to more interesting entrees than steak (unless I’m at a steakhouse), the Strip Steak piqued my interest.  Curtin rubs it with a black garlic and anchovy puree and serves it up with cauliflower three ways (pureed, steamed and raw), and a nutty, bagna cauda-like dipping sauce, which takes your garden variety steak dish to another level. Curtin is also manning the pastry station at Rosette, so don’t expect an apple tart or coconut cake. He’s a complicated chef and his desserts follow suit.  One night there was a special of Ricotta Cheesecake paved in Orange Gelee… with a basil pesto beneath it.  It sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  It wasn’t at all.  Pound Cake is torn into bouncy cubes, and partnered with a white chocolate ganache, a fantastic lemon curd ice cream and huckleberry compote.   Skip the Soy Milk Sorbet with grapefruit segments, which seemed ordinary in comparison with Curtin’s tasty play on milk and cookies – Roasted Brownie served with a Hazelnut Milk poured tableside over Birch Meringue and Apple Ice Cream.

Ricotta Cheesecake

Ricotta Cheesecake

I haven’t even mentioned the decor, which happens to be charming.  The upfront bar is outfitted with a white marble-topped bar, mirrors and a whole host of chandeliers dangling overhead.  The dining room is super spacious with high ceilings and a twirling ceiling fan overhead, white washed brick walls, and oversized, red curved booths with more space than you could ever need, which never happens in New York. If you just want to grab dinner, Rosette isn’t your guy.  It’s way too interesting to zone out or talk over.   This is one of those “let’s discuss dinner” dinners, which is ironic because I’ve barely read a word about this Lower East Side newcomer.  But it’s only a matter of days until people start talking about this talented toque, so I’d seize the day if I were you.

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