Recette in the West Village

Recette is a charming little corner bistro in the West Village where the artful presentation of the food belies the simple, comfortable space. The chef, Jesse Schenker, is talented indeed.

Here, the Berkshire Pork Belly, Rock Shrimp, Turnips, Romesco, Sherry Caramel:

The restaurant is on the corner of West 12th and Greenwich:

Looks so inviting, doesn’t it? It is:

The wait staff encourage you to order three plates, because the serving sizes are small. Not tapas, insisted the chef when we spoke to him at the table, because the dishes are all well-thoughout, composed and sauced. But manageable portions. We started with one of the “snacks.”

“Buffalo” Sweetbreads, Pickled Celery, Valdeón Dip:

These were so much fun. Sweetbreads, fried crisp, but served as if they were Buffalo wings, with a hot sauce, celery and a dipping sauce.

“Better than OVI,” said Boo. Though I’m not sure I agree. Just different.

Here’s a crazy good idea. Take a mound of rich burrata, ice it with a layer of porcini puree, then gild it with thin slices of beef carpacccio. Top with salad. Here is Beef Carpaccio, Burratta, Tomato Jam, Porcini Purée, Basil, Watercress:

Man oh man.

The salad — Local Baby Lettuce, Watermelon Radish, Grapes, Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette  — just goes to show how good the cooking is here:

All kinds of textures and flavors, from pickled to sweet, to earthy to bright. That’s a lot to pack in to one little salad.

Here is the Grilled Pulpo, Black Garlic Purée, Fennel, Preserved Lemon, Rosemary:

I very much liked the concept and plating of this dish (it looks like a fish, by gosh!), but the octopus was a little tough and the black garlic kind of took over. I was happiest when eating the fennel.

On the other hand, this black cod was my favorite dish of the night. The outside popped and had a hint of salt, there was a burst of smoke in the sauce and the fish was so tender and flaky and it melted like a snowflake on your tongue. Outrageous.

Black cod, lobster mushrooms, white bean puree, chorizo and basil:

The soup, too, was outrageous: Fall Squash Espuma, Roasted Foie Gras, Brussels Sprouts, Bacon Broth:

Our friend Helen had ordered the Fresh Cut Spaghetti, Cepes, Roquette, Parmesan, White Truffle, but the order got mixed up somehow, and the waitress brought us Crispy Sweetbread, Escarole, Brown Butter, Lemon, Capers, Parsley:

It was very good, and the herbs were bright and bracing, but I was glad we were passing plates, because I’d already had enough sweetbreads with our first course.

Here’s a look at our neighbors:

For our final courses, we tried the lobster risotto.

Lobster Risotto, Forest Mushroom, Lobster Emulsion, Burgundy Truffle:

It was tasty but it was a little watery, and reminded me of the water hanging out in the claw of a lobster if you boil it too long. But the rice was very nicely prepared and I liked the balance of textures.

The duck was insanely good.

Duck Breast, Leg & Foie Gras Terrine, Chard, Chanterelles, Walnuts:

So tender and juicy, and the accompaniments could have stood on their own as a meal.

And then, my friends, the pork belly. Here it is again:

So crispy on the outside, like candy. And like butter on the inside. The romesco was a nice treat, too. Not something you usually see with a dish like this.

The desserts, by pastry chef Christina Lee, were also elegant and delicious.

Fleur de Sel Chocolate Cake, Peanut Ice Cream, Caramel Sauce:

And scorched fig tart with puff pastry, ginger ice cream and berry coulis:

They were sweet, but not too, and satisying, but left you wanting. And I loved the little crunchies.

We especially enjoyed talking with the chef during the meal. His passion was so obvious — it was like he had to do this, open a restaurant. He had no other choice! He’d been wanting to do it since he was a child. He also told us about Mondays with Jesse, a once-a-month tasting menu where he clears out half the restaurant and does a tasting menu for everyone. The menus for previous ones are here. Sounds great.

We had a great time — Leigh and Helen discovered a mutal friend from Arizona (hi Linda!) — and discovered a new gem. We’ll be back.

The 411 on Recette: 328 West 12th St. (at the corner of Greenwich Street), Manhattan. 212 414 3000.

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