Frenchette, with its bottarga-laced spaghetti and giant loup de mer for two, will be the probable summertime destination for New Yorkers looking to channel the sunny Cote d’Azur. Just one thing: After the critics heaped praise on the venue, one might expect a bit of a crowd; a day before I published my review, a hostess said prime time waits for walk-ins could hit two hours.
So here’s another option: Boulud Sud, chef Daniel Boulud’s flavor-packed ode to Southern France and the Mediterranean. The Upper West Side staple, over half a decade into its existence, continues to dish out superb chicken tagines, turbot Provencale, spicy lamb soups, and a soupe de poisson that, quite frankly, is eons better than the version at Frenchette.
The restaurant’s true showstopper, however, is the grapefruit sorbet. This should come as no surprise for two reasons. First: Desserts are undergoing a renaissance in New York restaurants — though this particular dish is not new. Second: The grapefruit is the work of Ghaya Oliveira, one of the city’s best pastry chefs. (She once worked at Boulud Sud and is now at Daniel.)
Boulud Sud has been serving the spectacular givré, as it’s called, since its debut in 2011. The chefs spoon sorbet into a hollowed out grapefruit shell before tossing in fresh segments of the fruit and citrus marmalade. By any normal standards, this would suffice as a nicely composed bit of refreshment at the end of a meal.
But normal standards don’t apply here; this is an Oliveira recipe, after all. The pastry kitchen, currently in the capable hands of Daniel Kleinhandler, pipes in sesame foam, adds rose loukoum, seals the grapefruit with a brûléed orange sugar tuile, and anoints the whole affair with halva candy floss. It looks as if the pastry department dressed this grapefruit with a white-haired Christopher Lloyd Back to the Future wig.
How does it taste? Precisely like the component ingredients. The sensations are, in no particular order: crunchy, crackly, chewy, icy, silky, perfumed, deliciously hairy (from the candy floss), sweet, tart, fluffy, and jiggly. And aromatic — thanks to the sun-kissed citrus, the nutty sesame cream, the heady rose gelée.
Sam Sifton, in his review of Sud, wrote that it were as if the givré came from a “cookbook co-written by Escoffier and Ferran Adrià.” I’d put it differently, especially as there’s nothing laboratory-like or wildly unexpected about the preparation; it isn’t so much an exercise in avant-gardism (or traditionalism) as it is an act of brilliantly-intuitive plating, curating, and prep-work. The dish represents the flavors of North Africa — Oliveira is Tunisian-born — gently focused through a Southern French lens. Or more simply: It is a sundae like no other. One imagines consuming it with an aperol spritz on La Croissette in Cannes while wearing a white linen suit. It costs $15, and I’m rating it a BUY.
Buy, Sell, Hold is a column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a single dish or item and decides whether you should you buy it, sell it (or just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying).