Friday, February 16, 2007

Who's Choosing The Place (The Place)

I got together with my friends P & S last night at The Place (West 4th at 12th Street). We like dinner with plenty of conversation, so we were looking for a place that wouldn't kick us out if we wanted to linger (high probability of that), but had good food (I'm all for plenty of atmosphere for good conversation, but I'm not willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and eat bad food to get it).

S asked who was choosing 'the place'. P suggested that we just choose 'The Place'. I'm all for that kind of logic. And it turns out to be a perfect place to have a winter meal. It is a very warm, cozy feeling restaurant (though, unfortunately, too dark to make picture taking comfortable - so I'll try to paint verbally). We settled in, started talking and then by the third or fourth time our waiter asked, we were ready to order. Before we did so, S asked about our philosophy on food sharing - no better way to make me happy than by knowing that I'm eating with people who are okay with sharing, so the night was off to a great start. (Though it doesn't necessarily take away all of the stress - you know that you get to try someone else's dish, but what if it's so much better than yours that you regret your choice - that's pressure, but I try to shake that off).

S decided first - he went with the Wild Mushroom Risotto and The Lamb. Both of those were dishes that I had been looking at. I chose next (deciding that since I would get to try both of those, I didn't need to order them) and chose the Sweet Potato Ravioli and the special - Sirloin with Potato au Gratin. P went with the Duck Parpadelle and then the Cajun Fish Stew.

We also ordered the David Bruce 2004 Petit Sirah. I find David Bruce to be a really nice mid-range wine and have had good success with their Pinot Noir as well as the Petit Sirah. It tasted as good as I had hoped (and went well with the food that we had ordered).

My favorite of the appetizers - by far - was mine (isn't that a great thing to be able to say!). It was amazing. I usually find that I love the idea of squash-type pastas more than I love the actual incarnation. But this was truly better than I could have imagined - there was squash and cheese and while it was sweet, it wasn't too sweet. The presentation also was nice - the plump little raviolis nestled in the bottom of a simple off-white bowl. It wasn't a fancy, over the top plating, but it sure made me want to eat them. I could have eaten thousands of these (probably not really, but it sure felt like it).

The Parpadelle was also really nice. It had that nice rich duck flavor which worked really well with the tomato sauce. It was definitely a hearty winter kind of dish (not a bad thing on a night where we had to do a little snow tramping to get there (not a lot as the streets had basically been cleared, but there was some (and in the darkness, we could even pretend that it wasn't grey))). I would definitely order it again (unless the Ravioli was still on the menu and then I would probably be forced to order that instead - though parpadelle is really a fun noodle, both to say and to eat).

The risotto was nice. It wasn't the best I've ever had. But it was nice. In retrospect, maybe it needed salt (I think that I am realizing that risotto is generally undersalted for one with my predilections).

And then we got our entrees. I had gone for something pretty simple with the Sirloin - and was rewarded with a very nicely done steak. It's not that hard to do a steak well, and yet a number of places do. The Place does it well. It was pretty perfectly cooked. The au gratin potato however, was not the best (too much potato not enough gratin).

I had thought seriously about ordering the lamb and was glad I hadn't. It was okay, but I didn't love the vegetables with it - the flavors didn't quite work for me.

The fish stew on the other hand was really nice. It had a strong flavor that really worked for me. P's favorite was the shrimp, but I actually liked the mussels a little better.

Because S & P are great conversationalists, we had plenty of time for dessert - even after eating slowly. We decided to go with the Creme Brulee. Now, a couple of years ago I spent 6 weeks in Paris and became the world's leading expert on 2004 Parisian Creme Brulee (I have no way of proving that, but it seems unlikely that even in a year, anyone ate more creme brulee than I did in those 6 weeks - really). What this means is that I am more than a bit fussy about my Creme Brulee. This was only okay (but again, I've got high standards).

Overall, I would definitely go back. I really liked the atmosphere. We were well treated even though we dawdled (really, really slowly). And, overall, I was quite happy with the food.


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