Mon-Thu, 5pm-10pm; Fri-Sat, 5pm-11:45pm; Sun, closed
1 at 66th St.-Lincoln Center
American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Terrance Brennan’s flagship restaurant, Picholine, isn’t particularly old by dowager standards. It opened in 1993, across from Lincoln Center, and quickly developed a reputation for the exceptional quality of Brennan’s Provençal-accented cooking, and for its cheese cart, laboriously put together by the city’s first celebrity maître fromager, Max McCalman. Picholine never won any awards for its looks, however. Over the years, the windowless rooms have undergone a series of minor renovations, each one more dowdy and dated than the next. Mercifully, the baroque peach-colored paint is now gone, replaced with a silvery shade of mauve. The grandma-style sconces have disappeared, in favor of tall, silk-shaded lamps with an elegant seashell design. The bar area, so beloved by crowds of champagne-swilling opera loons, has been retooled, too, in tones of fresh Martha Stewart white (it used to be olive green), and although the lighting is still a little flat, the overall effect seems updated and clean, in a muted sort of way, even stylishly debonair.
The main menu at Picholine has been similarly revamped by Brennan and his chef de cuisine, Carmine DiGiovanni, and is now divided, according to today’s prevailing styles of simplicity and artisanal correctness, into categories like Preludes, Day Boats, and The Land. Some dishes predate the restaurant’s makeover, but many are new. The excellent “Bacon and Eggs” consists of a simple polenta, served with shavings of smoky tuna bacon, more truffle toast, and a poached egg. For something a little more opulent, try the sea-urchin panna cotta, which is topped with caviar, and presented with seaweed-flecked rice biscuits tucked in white linen. My mother, who knows a deft makeover when she sees one, commented favorably on her serving of fat, buttery gnocchi (made with sheep’s-milk ricotta, and mixed with shrimp and chanterelles), but the dish I liked best was the squid-ink linguine. It consisted of a tangle of dark pasta set in an inventive, delicately spicy “paella” broth (made with lobster and chicken stock, saffron, and almonds), and topped off with a creamy aïoli spiked with bits of chorizo.Prix-Fixe Menu
Three-course dinner, $92; seven-course tasting menu royale, $135
Jackets recommended for men at dinner.
Bar-menu tasting, chicken Kiev, warm apple brioche.