Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Prandial New York: Modern American at a Pinnacle

By: Anne M. Raso

At first glance, Prandial looks like just another trendy, modern space in forever-chic Chelsea. But upon closer inspection, you can see that the integrity of the original turn of the century factory-like decor is intact, and that the lighting is dark, romantic and warm--much unlike the lighting in Justin’s, which was housed in the same space for many years. The food is delicious and served in generous portions, unlike a lot of eateries in this fashionable nabe!

I started off with Artichoke Salad ($12), which featured asparagus, fennel, arugula, artichoke, French dressing and Parmesan cheese. The veggies/greens are organic and tender, and what they call "French dressing" is actually a light mix of emulsified lemon juice, olive oil and herbs. It's light fare served in a hearty portion size and it's a salad worth traveling out of your way to get.
Artichoke Salad
My second starter of the evening was the Pork Belly ($15)--it is gorgeously crispy and golden and served with a beet salad and pickled chanterelles. Executive Chef Pierre Rougey (formerly of Raoul’s) pickled his own organic vegetables with French herbs (yes, he's French) in the summer and they are delightful. He pairs them with unusual meat choices. Let me say that if you love Pork Belly, this is the best in town. It’s moistness and rich flavor will make you forget about the calories—and the portion is generous (about six ounces).
Pork Belly
For my first entree, I ordered the grass fed Grilled Ribeye ($36) served with a mild black peppercorn sauce, house fries (made of organic Idaho potatoes) and watercress. This was about a 14-ounce slab of prime beef and you really did not need a steak knife to cut it. The peppercorn sauce was perfect for those who do not want to be bowled over by a more traditional sauce of this type with killer "heat."
Grilled Ribeye
My second entree was the Roast Chicken ($23), which was served with steamed broccoli, potato gratin and rosemary jus. The way that Rougey grills a chicken with no basting involved makes the outer crust golden and firm. When you cut the chicken open, you can literally see the clear juices flow. He's got the classic French chef moves on the gratin, but he makes sure to use cream with a light touch. I also ordered a side of Cauliflower Gratin ($8) and I loved it, although technically a béchamel sauce made with double gooey artisanal Swiss cheese. If all veggies tasted this good, children would never complain!
Roast Chicken
For dessert, I had both the Buttermilk Panna Cotta served in an adorable mason jar and topped and "bottomed" with homemade berry gelee ($9) and the exceptional Banana Upside Down Tart ($9), which is a real work of art. I say that as a foodie who only eats raw bananas and dislikes them cooked in any way, so that makes it a super-compliment of sorts. This tastes much like the famous Bananas Foster served at Brennan's in New Orleans but think of it with a cakier texture and a harder "burnt sugar" glaze. The desserts are of a generous size--it would be very practical for two diners to share.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta
This is a family friendly restaurant even though there is a lot of young after dinner drink folks in your midst. Also, even though it's a big space, it's not loud. The stylishly dressed staff is very attentive and will prepare dishes to your personal specs--so if you want a peppercorn sauce for your prime ribeye that will kill you with heat, you can get it that way! After talking to Rougey after my dinner, you can tell that he has many of the most difficult master chef techniques mastered. We would love to see him blow everyone away on Top Chef one of these days. His charming French accent and hearty handshake are quite endearing as well!

31 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10001
Cuisine: Modern American

Prandial on Urbanspoon
Photos: Anne M Raso

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