I can still taste the sweet broth, rich with celery and granny smith apples coating fresh pieces of hamachi. Rarely does a meal leave me in such a state of culinary bliss as my meal at Marc Forgione did this past Saturday. Everything about the restaurant was spot on, from the simple, rustic decor to the service to the food itself.
The self titled, New American restaurant, owned by Iron Chef Marc Forgione takes classic, decadent dishes and completely transforms your perception of food and flavors. The highest culinary honor, a Michelin Star, has been bestowed restaurant two years in a row.
I entered the restaurant with my go-to foodie favorite, Amber, for what we knew would be a wonderful meal. The place is hidden in TriBeCa, in an area you wouldn’t causally stumble upon. We walked inside from the dark street, to a vibrant, gorgeous space. Dark and light wood made up the ambiance, with candles lit on every table. A large bookshelf covered one wall of the main dining room, full of knick knacks and books you wish you could have put together at your house. It feels as if you are in a warm, inviting friends’ country home.
We ordered a bottle of red wine to share to start, then tried to decide our game plan for the meal. We always enjoy sharing every dish so we can have a taste of everything. We had trouble finally mapping out our meal, but with the help of our knowledgeable waitress, we decided on five appetizer sized dishes, served in a specific order for the flow of the meal. The first course would be bay scallop ceviche and hamachi.
But first, pieces of warm, salty bread and herbed butter arrived on a wooden board with a miniature dark, iron container holding the rich butter. A great start to the meal.
After we ordered, two amuse bouchée were placed in front of us, described as a everything roll with veggie cream cheese and an Apple Cider Pâté de Fruits.
I first bit into the tiny “bagel.” This was the best everything bagel with cream cheese I have ever enjoyed. And that’s saying a lot coming from someone who grew up on the stuff. It was a wonderful, compact bite full of all the flavors of salty, sweet and poppy seeds and a rich sweet subtly to the veggie cream cheese. I couldn’t imagine the apple cider pâté de fruits competing with the bagel. But it did. As Amber said, “it was fall in a bite.”
With our palates ready and prepped for the main events, we couldn’t contain our excitement when the first courses arrived; Hamachi and Bay Scallop Ceviche, the day’s special.
While most restaurants change their menu seasonally and create different dishes over time, it’s no surprise that the Hamachi dish earned a permanent spot on the menu since day one. This had to be one of the most delightful, complex versions of raw fish I have ever encountered. The flavors seemed to build on top of each other with each bite adding more dimension then the last. The granny smith apple seemed to soak up the flavors around it, giving it a subtle spice reminding me of pickled ginger. The celery root added a sweetness and crunch to the creamy, rich fish. The fish itself had a smooth, subtle texture and flavor, combining with the other seemingly complicated, yet simplistic elements on the plate. The bright burst of caviar lightened the dish and added a complexity that only caviar can bring. It’s one of those dishes, where I can close my eyes and taste all of the flavors coming together into one harmonious dish, and wish I could share this culinary experience with all those around me.
Everything about this dish left the palate incited and wanting more. The sweet, fresh bay scallops tasted straight out the ocean with an innate salty subtly of flavor. The winter citrus vinegar broth was dreamy, combined with the uni for a wonderful, rich umami flavor. I actually did take my spoon at one point, drinking the lovely, bright liquid when the bay scallops had been long gone. There was something warm and comforting about the ceviche. It might have been fond memories of my first exposure to the seafood preparation in Peru, or the romantic intensity of the uni, but I wanted to melt after each bite. If you happen to be at Marc Forgione when this special finds its way on the menu, it should not be passed up.
After a few minutes of sipping wine, dreaming about the luxurious transformation of the raw fish, our next course arrived. This would be the meatier, richer portion of the meal with Rabbit Cavatelli and Foie Gras.
While delicious, this dish was the least memorable of the meal. The crisp crust on top, revealed warm pieces of rabbit and homemade cavatelli. The sauce was rich and creamy from the ricotta. The crunch on the top, which seemed to be an almost bread crumb-like mixture, seemed to be the most unique element to this pasta dish. I think the other dishes were so extraordinary, that the pasta just seemed to fall a bit short.
The foie gras, on the other hand, was a completely different story. While fois gras itself is a controversial dish, anyone who rejects the flavors has not tried Marc Forgione’s version. He transformed an already decadent rich protein into something even more flavorful, melt in your mouth dish.
Foie Gras by definition is rich and luxurious, considered one of the more expensive, coveted, and controversial pieces of meat served in the U.S. I love everything about its intense flavor and versatility. The round piece of fois gras is served with five different kinds of unique salt, including vanilla, sea salt, smoked, blackened and a salt-pepper blend, allowing for you to add whatever depth of flavor that suits you best. The duck fat english muffins were rich and decadent alone, making me question why I couldn’t indulge in these every morning. The concord grape puree, might have converted me to be a grape jam fan, with such a sweetness and depth of flavor.
I spread the grape spread, a piece of foie gras and a sprinkle of vanilla salt on top. Taking one bite, I realized what I was eating, the most wonderful, intense FG&J of my life. And by that I mean, the foie gras replaced peanut butter in the world of decadent dining. This dish just made sense. I felt as if my childhood had been rewritten, and I love meals like that. I expected a great dish with foie gras, but I didn’t expect for it to be this memorable. Every day lunches and breakfasts of english muffins are going to disappoint after this.
As suggested by our waitress, we finished the meal with a kick of spice from the Chili Lobster. One of Amber’s co-workers had raved about this dish as something unique that should not be missed.
Immediately, the color stands out before you inhale the intoxicating and spicy smell of chili, lobster and butter. The cull lobster’s redness contrasts with the white of the bowl and the thick, golden pieces of Texas Toast tower over the sauce below. The fiery sauce brings together the flavors of the sweet lobster, hot sauce and ginger, with the faint taste of lime juice. The buttery, gigantic pieces of toast soak up the spicy flavors, while also giving a subtle sweetness to subdue the extreme heat and spice.
This is a lobster dish I unlike any other, completely transforming lobster into something heartier, spicier and unforgettable. It’s hardly meant to be eaten in the classiest of ways, although I tried. My fingers turned red with the broth and pieces of lobsters, as I devoured every element of the dish. Luckily, Amber and I both got little warm bowls of water with lemon to clean off our fingers as we ate. It’s the classiest version of a wet nap.
During this time of the meal, we spoke with Cary, one of the managers of the restaurant to rave about our wonderful experience. He told us that unfortunately Marc Forgione was not in the kitchen tonight, called away on business. He usually commands the kitchen about five nights a week, proving the dedication of an Iron Chef who grew up in the industry.
Even though we paid our bill, completely full, we were told it was necessary to end the meal with something sweet. The waiter placed one of the most beautiful, rich desserts in front of us, as our eyes opened wide.
Such an amazing meal could not have ended in a sweeter way. Rich decadence served on one plate could only come from the imagination of a culinary genius. Cary explained that the dessert had just been added to the menu the day before, and we deemed it an instant favorite. Salty and sweet stands out as a favorite flavor combination. The salty, light caramel cremeux on top of the warm brownie followed by the rich nutella sauce underneath created melted into your mouth. As my friend said, “you had me at nutella.” But it was so much more, with the cold ice cream, combining with the warm, depth of flavors, I couldn’t help but smile in silence as the dish was devoured and plate licked clean. Even though, I had found myself on a culinary high and full before starting this dessert, I couldn’t help but crave more.
It was the most fabulous, rich, exquisite meal I have had in a long time. My only grievance of the entire experience, was the skimpy pours on the “glasses” of wine. I kept almost waiting for the waitress to come back and fill up the goblet to its traditional 4oz markings. But even the wine portions could not stop me from raving about the delights of Marc Forgione.
Everything about the progression of the meal and beautiful rich, flavorful sauces and broths transformed seemingly simple ingredients into something unforgettable. This is a meal I will be dreaming about for weeks, if not months to come.
Restaurant Marc Forgione – 134 Reade Street – New York, NY
*Marc Forgione shared his Chili Lobster recipe with the NYTimes. You can find it here.
Type: New American
Perfect For: Special Occasions, Date Night
Reservations: Recommended via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Nantucket Bay Scallop Ceviche, Hamachi, Chili Lobster, Salted Caramel & Nutella Dessert