It used to be the case that the reasons you found yourself in the Financial District were that a) you worked at Goldman Sachs or b) you had newly moved to an apartment in the area and didn’t know any better. Now, however, the Financial District has evolved considerably beyond being an abandoned lot occupied by 20-something analysts living in converted office buildings. There are fast-casual restaurants open past the hours of 6 pm, the splashy shopping center Brookfield Place is nearby, and the luxury Beekman Hotel recently opened to validate the Financial District’s improving status in the world.Read More
I was prepared to hate Cherche Midi when I dropped by for dinner a few weeks ago. I’m not the biggest fan of French food, and I find the whole Keith McNally restaurant scene a little annoying. Like I don’t really care that I’m rubbing elbows with Anna Wintour at Balthazar or that Olivier Theyskens was eating mussels at Pastis. I don’t want to self-consciously put on airs so that I can meet the standards of the stylish diners around me–I just want to focus on eating good food.
The food at Cherche Midi is so good, though, that it was able to overcome my initial reservations, and I am now a total McNally convert and will gladly wear some makeup and heels to eat more of his delicious French fare. Seriously, the kitchen hit it out of the park with every dish we ordered, it was very impressive how perfect everything was. This is officially the best new restaurant of the 2014 season.
There’s so much to like as soon as you step in. The space is beautiful–a gorgeous, modern bistro decked out in the whitest of whites, filled with interesting downtown clientele. I was initially concerned that the fashionista staff might be a little snobby, but they were very warm and accommodating. They were running a bit behind in seating us for dinner, and to make it up to us, they offered us free glasses of champagne. I’ve had to wait ~30 minutes for a reservation many times, and rarely do I get a drink on the house, so I certainly appreciated this gesture.
French food can be very heavy, and so when we ordered the pot de fromage as a group appetizer, I expected a huge vat of thick, fondue-like cheese, accompanied by huge slices of bread. What appeared was completely the opposite. The texture of the parmesan cheese was a revelation. It was very fluffy and egg custard like, and not dense and overbearing at all. The salted cheese went so well with the crisp slices of golden, anchovy toasts that accompanied the plate. It was such an elegant and elevated rendition of a typical comfort food dish.
The elegant rendition of comfort food classics continued with the lobster ravioli, which was my favorite entree of the night. Again, I expected something packed with butter and cheese, but the ravioli was much more subdued, having more in common with the delicate wonton than its hearty Italian roots. I liked the subtlety of the preparation, although you could taste the hints of cheese and salt to reassure you that this is still an indulgence.
My whole grilled daurade was fantastic–the meat was delightfully chunky, fleshy and flavorful, and it was all seasoned very well. There were these interesting bits of what looked like fried vegetable tempura that accompanied it, which gave the soft fish some good texture.
I tried some of Ruoxi’s prime rib burger, which was also juicy and delicious. There’s so much umami going on in the patty–bacon marmalade and roasted mushroom extracting the fullest savory sensations possible from the meat. The side of thin, crispy frites was perfect, although make sure you eat them before they get soggy.
As if dinner couldn’t get any better, the chocolate souffle arrived, and it was flawless. Warm, with a perfect, billowing pouf, filled with a smooth, velvety chocolate sauce that was even more incredible with a ribbon of cream. Every single calorie was absolutely worth it.
I was pleased as punch by the end of dinner. It’s hard to find restaurants that are equally scene-y and delicious, but McNally definitely has a magic formula going that is able to deliver on both. The phrase “le cherche midi” apparently means the “midday search,” and it is also the name of an old French prison, both of which don’t do justice to this restaurant. There’s no midday searching to be done at Cherche Midi, all the good food has been discovered and found here, and if this is what prison is like, then by all means lock me up!
282 Bowery (and Houston St)
New York, NY 10012