God knows New York could always use a few more great restaurants north of 57th Street on the east side. I know, I know; solid progress has been made over the years (The Mark, Salumeria Rosi, & The East Pole), but nonetheless there remains a culinary no man’s land between uptown and midtown. Aside from Fred’s at Barney’s, Rouge Tomate and the famously overpriced Nello, there ain’t a lot of choices. But things have been looking up since Rotisserie Georgette flung open its doors on 60th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues.
Who would have thought you could get a killer chicken in these parts? Or better yet, a Roast Chicken for Two, dubbed the “Poule De Luxe,” lavished with Mushroom Stuffing, a fistful of fresh herbs, and a crown of Seared Foie Gras. What a regal chicken this is and it tastes as gloriously good as it looks, which is rarely the case; the skin properly crispy, the meat wondrously moist, the accoutrements unusually luxurious. (Let’s just say I’m ruined forever now.) If you can’t find anyone to share it with, or you’re just not a fan of pimped out poultry, try the “Poulet Roti,” an organic Zimmerman chicken, which is like the Prada of poultry right now; a roasted half chicken, served with your choice of sauce, but I’d skip the sauce and enjoy this soul-satisfying bird on its own with a side of equally satisfying Rotisserie Potatoes, strategically placed under the chickens while they roast to catch all the drippings. Or golden, salty Pommes Frites, scattered with fresh tarragon. While there aren’t a ton of options for vegetarians or pescatarians, you will find a few salads and a fine, rotisserie roasted loup de mer with lemon, black olives and fresh thyme.
Pretty much everything cooked on the rotisserie is better for it. There’s a juicy Loin of Lamb, sliced and seasoned with lemon confit, parsley and mint, and a Seven Pepper Crusted Strip Steak with a Bearnaise Sauce. And while chicken may be the most buzzed about thing on the menu, my favorite dish is the Pekin Duck. It’s cooked to a gorgeous medium rare and sauced with a huckleberry glaze, teasing maximum sweetness out of the breast.
Rotisserie Georgette’s forte is making comfort foods luxurious. I love gnocchi as much as the next guy, but it’s not the prettiest bowl of pasta. Here, the gnocchi is prepared “A La Parisienne”: What arrives at the table is a dreamy bowl of itty bitty gnocchi, glossed in a light parmesan and a wild mushroom reduction, which does wonders to ground this otherwise ethereal dish. The final touch, if you can fork out some extra cash, is a scattering of fresh black truffles, which takes it to another level. (If money were no object, I would eat this all winter long.)
Speaking of money, the crowd skews older and notably Upper East Side with the occasional foodie or restaurant critic who’s made their way uptown to sample the chicken for him or herself. The space itself is rustic, yet elegant, adorned with beautiful wood floors, blue, Portuguese tiles framing both the upfront bar and a partially open kitchen at the rear of the restaurant. The tables are generously spaced out, and cushy banquettes covered in plush, brown leather, the smell of chicken fat in the air. You might be wondering who the Georgette is behind this midtown rotisserie. For nearly twenty years, Georgette Farkas was Daniel Boulud’s right hand man, overseeing marketing for the respected restaurateur. Now, she’s got a French restaurant of her own with a French born chef, David Malbequi, who’s worked with Daniel Boulud and Laurent Tourondel.
As soon as Rotisserie Georgette officially opens for lunch, I imagine the “ladies who lunch” crowd will be all over the Salad Francine, a mix of arugula, wax beans (which you don’t see enough), artichoke hearts and parmesan crisps, tossed in a carrot-coriander vinaigrette. Even better is an appetizer of warm, Roasted Leeks tucked beneath rosy (and tasty) ribbons of Duck Prosciutto, scattered with mache and pignoli nuts in a grilled red onion vinaigrette. The weakest link on the menu is a starter of Octopus, served grenobloise, which is French for a sauce of brown butter, capers, parsley, and croutons. The octopus itself was overcooked and poorly paired with the sauce.
Whatever you do, don’t skip dessert. The pastry chef, Sohla El-Wayly, who worked at Atera, makes an impressive showing here. The Pot De Creme is an outrageously rich and velvety rendition, spiked with espresso and a cocoa nib praline, which has etched itself in my memory. There’s a classic Apple Tarte Tatin for two, properly topped off with creme fraiche, and a terrific Cookie Plate with a bittersweet chocolate sandwich with hazelnut cream that Georgette likened to a “fancy Milano cookie,” a pistachio & apricot cookie, and their version of a blondie, made with chewy salted caramel & pecan bar. If you stuffed yourself silly on rotisserie meats, consider the Cranberry-Poached Pear, topped with a smidge of Pecan Crumble and an oddly light Ricotta Ice Cream.
“Everybody loves the new restaurant,” Georgette said when I congratulated her on my way out the door. That couldn’t be more true, but the thing is there’s nothing new about roast chicken, French fries and pot de creme, or anything else on the menu really. When you do as delicious justice to French classics as Rotisserie Georgette does, you’ve got nothing to worry about. Us eaters, on the other hand, have to get ourselves on the reservation book, which isn’t so easy already and that’s a very good problem to have.