There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the opening of Andrew Carmellini’s new French restaurant Lafayette. The foodie PR machine has gone a little overboard in its love for Carmellini, dedicating monthly posts over the past year obsessively monitoring the progress of the restaurant. The long wait is finally over, as Lafayette officially opened for dinner service this week. I dropped by for a meal last night to see whether the restaurant lived up to all the massive hype, and the answer is no.
Don’t get me wrong, the food here is good, and I would definitely come back for another visit. But I wouldn’t rate my meal a 9 out of a 10, it was more like a 7+. Everything was well executed, but the flavors weren’t perfect. To give Carmellini credit, his style of cooking is certainly very distinctive, and if you had to pick out a Lafayette steak frites out of a line up, you definitely could. I just wish originality and taste could have been a little more balanced.
While the cuisine at Lafayette is mostly French, hints of Spanish, Italian and American influences also make their way on the menu. My personal favorite was the linguine noir with seafood and chorizo. I quite enjoyed the delicious, brine-y flavors of the squid-ink pasta, and I thought the bread crumbs and chorizo gave the noodles some nice, salty texture. On a future visit, I would love to try the spaghetti niçoise with tuna and spring mushroom risotto. The grilled Mediterranean octopus appetizer was less successful. I wish the octopus were crispier, and I thought the flavors weren’t very sharp. The smoky eggplant gave the dish too much of a muddied taste, and while the peppers from the pipérade provided some nice acidity, they weren’t enough to compensate for the overall disappointing effect.
The most classically French dish we tried was the steak frites. We ordered this medium rare, but there were certain parts that were definitely overcooked. I also wasn’t a fan of the bernaise sauce, as the herbs were overly prominent in the butter. The fries were fantastic though. The side of broccoli that we ordered was very underwhelming and irrelevant to the meal. A neighboring table ordered a duck au poivre, which looked delicious, as well as a wood-fired dorade, which they graded a C-.
For dessert, we decided to grab a few treats from Lafayette’s in-house bakery. An enticing spread of macarons, cakes and breads made it hard to choose, but ultimately we decided upon the butterscotch eclair and the birthday cake macaron. The desserts had unique, refined flavors and were visually stunning, but I wouldn’t go back for seconds, which is crazy for someone like me who has a sweet tooth.
The space inside Lafayette is beautiful and massive, and you certainly feel as if you’ve been transported to a gorgeous, modern-day Parisian brasserie. The diners are as beautiful as the surroundings, enhancing the elegant aesthetic with their vibrant presence. Come here dressed to kill for a special occasion so that you can blend in with the socialites and power brokers who seem to frequent this place. Lafayette’s stock is a clear buy, although I personally think it’s a bit overvalued and will wait for the hype to die down before getting back in.