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We were asked in a recent interview: What is your favorite restaurant?
Really?! Our favorite restaurant? In the entire world?!
Has our society really gotten that shallow that we have to rank only one restaurant from a pool of millions? The fact is that it’s hard to keep pace with all the changes in the food scene during the last few decades – nouvelle cuisine, international fusion, farm to table and modernism. We’ve seen and tasted it all. To assign one clear favorite would be a gastronomic injustice.
Many times, chefs find themselves in a constant battle to stay current. It seems that, in many cases, food changes faster than fashion, and today’s bone broth could become yesterday’s seared ahi tuna. Nowhere is this more the case than in New York City where Michelin-starred restaurants compete with pizzerias.
Our Lunch at Dirty French
It’s with this in mind that we write about the shockingly good food we enjoyed over a recent lunch at Dirty French in the Lower East Side’s Ludlow Hotel.
With knowledge and unremitting drive, chefs Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone along with Chef de Cuisine Dai Matsuda have created food that’s stylish, tasty and fun at the same time – all in a beautiful, sunlit, museum-like space that feels as casual as a living room.
We started with the mushroom millefeuille – a dish dancing with culinary possibility. After cutting into the multiple microscopic layers of light, crispy shaved mushroom, we dipped the millefeuille into the bright, spicy green-pea colored curry made crunchy with bits of fresh celery.
The juxtaposition of the refined, delicate mushroom pastry and the bold, spicy sauce was magical.
Our other starter paled in comparison, but only visually. The simply plated canelle-shaped tuna tartare arrived at the table with a large crispy crêpe and a melange of herbs.
As we devoured the succulent chunks of molded sushi-grade tuna, the flavor of the subtle Thai chili started to kick in with a slow-building heat that warmed our taste buds. It wasn’t long before we abandoned our silverware and scarfed down every bit of tartare with the crêpe.
We don’t see French Dips on a lot of menus these days, so, of course, we had to order the American classic during our lunch.
On one hand, the Dirty French version elevates the classic sandwich to new heights with a traditional French baguette, slow-cooked roast beef and fresh horseradish sauce. On the other hand, eating this sandwich made us wish we had ordered the banh mi for the creatively bold flavors of our meal’s other dishes.
However, we have no second thoughts about ordering the meunière entrée. Made with a brook trout instead of the more traditional sole, this dish was generously prepared with sesame seeds, apricots and lemon. And butter. Lots of butter.
We’re not sure if the deep flavors emanated from the meatiness of the trout or from the audacious preparation, but, either way, it was an outstanding dish that we will long remember.
We would be remiss not to mention the flatbread. The warm, house-made bread was placed on a pedestal and was served with fromage blanc spiked with olive oil and rosemary.
We chose the citrus tart to end our decadent lunch. The slim tart made with meyer lemons was topped with eight dollops of toasted meringue and reminded us of pastries we’ve eaten in Paris.
Elements like crunchy almonds and tart lemon zest strips rounded out the dessert, not to mention the flavor-zinging salt flakes.
It wasn’t until we were on the subway headed back uptown that we realized that our server neglected to bring us a side dish of haricots asiatique (Yes. The service wasn’t perfect – something we’re willing to overlook because the food was so good.)
We were bummed since we had really wanted to try the restaurant’s mash-up of French green beans and Asian spices. When we return for dinner, hopefully, we’ll get everything that we order. Until then, we’ll dream about the perfect bite of millefeuille that was the highlight of our lunch.
Dirty French is located at The Ludlow hotel, 180 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002, United States.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.