By Christopher A. Pape
Sometimes a love affair is so passionate that words can’t describe the emotion that is felt. Sometimes an addiction can be so strong that no matter of cajoling or begging can make it stop. And sometimes a restaurant is so good that licking a plate is almost seen as dignified. The restaurant that I refer to happens to be my favorite restaurant in New York City.
Picholine, a type of olive mostly found in Provence and Northern Italy, is also the world-renowned restaurant located nearby Lincoln Center. It is, in my humble estimation, one of the finest restaurants in the world. With its soaring ceilings, baroque interior, immaculate service and extensive wine list it sits at the summit of dining establishments.
Owned, operated and helmed in the kitchen by Terrance Brennan, the restaurant’s focus is on a clear commitment to producing the finest and most innovative dish as possible. It is no wonder then that the restaurant has been open since 1993 and has received three stars from the New York Times dining critic.
On a cold fall evening, a guest and I had the most out-of-body experience here and we knew from the start of the amuse to the last spoonful of our dessert that we had had one of the most perfect meals we have ever had. It was a combination of all the elements that provokes and prods me into such a glowing review.
One of their signature dishes (and one that I can’t imagine ever going out of style) is the sea urchin panna cotta. With the brininess of the urchin (really the most regal of the ‘frutti de mare’) and the creaminess of the panna cotta this is a dish that has been so successful that I can imagine a riot breaking out if Terrance every tried to take it off the menu.
Another dish that rang true for us was the foie gras ‘shabu shabu’. Basically a thinly sliced piece of raw foie gras it is cooked almost instantly in a bouillon that was served tableside. We loved the sweet and sour taste of the soup and the meat itself was perfectly delicate and immensely appetizing.
There are several course options here and in the not so distant past the restaurant introduced a la carte into their menu (I’d stay away from this). From sixteen courses to four there is one to fit the need of each guest. In my latest visit we had the eight courses but previously we have had the sixteen (which is like running a marathon – one must pace oneself). Whichever course option is chosen, you can’t go wrong. Just eating at Picholine is ecstasy itself.