Sunday, March 28, 2010
Café De France: A Pleasant Surprise
It was a cold rainy day on Park Avenue when I stumbled into Café De France. All I wanted was a bowl of warm soup to defrost my bones when it dawned on me that this place was so much more than that.
A brief look at the menu denoted that this place certainly specialized in classic French cooking. Not surprisingly enough for me, the simple soup turned out to be a full-course lunch and an adventure in technique, precision, and refinement.
My companion and I ordered soup and then for appetizers the Terrine and Escargots. The soup was a mushroom base with a burgundy wine reduction. Creamy, smooth, and thick, the soup almost coated my throat warming me up from the inside out. The Terrine was executed perfectly- not-too-thick slices accompanied with toast. If the slices were thick, the Terrine would have overpowered the taste buds due to its dense character. It was savory and texturally semi-smooth. Overall, it was a pretty standard and well presented. The Escargots were the highlight in the appetizer section. They were perfectly cooked and seasoned with butter and herbs. Who knew snails could be remotely comforting? For the faint of heart, I highly recommend to try this establishment’s snails. They will not disappoint. On the downside, the toast that both appetizers came with was a little soggy- quite possibly since it was rainy and humid outside. However, they were a slight distraction in the mouth to an otherwise fine start.
For main course, I thought I would be a little daring and take up any recommendation the server made. He came out with a medium-rare cooked duck breast with a cranberry sauce. I have never tried duck medium-rare and again the execution of the dished that made it quite successful- the duck was sliced to a perfect thickness with a semi-crisp skin and a very pink interior. Furthermore it complemented very well with the tart, semi-sweet cranberry accompaniment. The dish was topped off with a dainty bundle of cooked asparagus. The portion size was modest, but I was already feeling the effects of satiation from the soup and appetizer course. It’s a beautiful thing when your desire to eat delicious food contradicts the logic of the stomach. Please note: Medium-cooked duck is not for everyone… some perceive it as too chewy while others like the smoothness of the duck meat when prepared this way.
For dessert, I opted for an Espresso and a Crème Brûlée. Again, a classic dessert prepared wonderfully- I was especially happy when I found out that the caramelized sugar crust was not just a very thin layer. Rather, I had enough of the delightfully crunchy crust for every single bite of the Brûlée.
IN A NUTSHELL- Your bill will not be cheap, but your mouth will be very educated in classic French dishes after this experience. Set like a traditional small French Café, this place feels comfy in a small setting. Expect good food, prepared with technique and thought, and presented in a clean but stylized manner. For the wine lover, they also carry a modest collection of wines from around the world. A good place for a special weekend lunch.