Mon-Sat, 5:30pm-midnight; Sun, 10am-3pm and 5:30pm-midnight
A, C, E at 14th St.; L at Eighth Ave.
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Jesse Schenker and his band of tattooed kitchen serfs at Recette, in the West Village, seem bent on dragging the old French canon, kicking and screaming, into the new millennium. The 30-year-old cook (who sports a tattoo of a Japanese carving knife on his arm) has worked with Gordon Ramsay, among others, and his pastry chef, Christina Lee, is a veteran of Per Se. Rather than rise slowly through the ranks of a stuffy, uptown kitchen, Schenker and company have followed the now familiar David Chang model and set up shop in a small, out-of-the-way location, in this case the former Jarnac space, on the far westerly fringe of 12th Street. Their new restaurant isn’t much to look at (spare dark-wood tabletops squeezed between drab olive walls, with a scattering of antique knickknacks), but the modestly priced (only three dishes cost over $20) small-plate, “urban American” menu is full of all sorts of elegant and unexpected surprises.
The first thing I tasted at Recette (French for “recipe”) was a square of arctic-char tartare, dabbed, among other things, with beet-flavored sorbet and popping little bulbs of salmon caviar. By the time the third dish arrived (a deliciously soft block of halibut, set over a creamy morel sauce), I felt like an opera buff who’d stumbled on a group of world-class tenors singing arias in their garage. Schenker and his associates are just as facile with meat (try the gently caramelized pork belly or the crunchy sweetbread drizzled with brown butter) as they are with fish, and you will find little wonders on the dessert list, too. Lee dresses puffy beignets with cassis-spiked raspberry jam, and makes an updated Greenmarket version of a napoleon with roasted apples. But to finish your meal on a real crescendo, order her ingenious interpretation of s’mores, which is made with burnt marshmallow, graham-cracker ice cream, and a streak of chocolate ganache spiced with cayenne.
Crispy sweetbreads, halibut, graham-cracker ice-cream s’mores.