Do you have that one TV channel you always flip to? The one you can leave on for hours and be totally content? For my boyfriend, it’s without a doubt ESPN. For me, it’s Food Network. I know that sometimes they can be a little cheesy, but I’m such a fan of the competition shows in particular. Chopped, I love you. Iron Chef, you rule. What’s amazing about being in New York City is that I finally get to try the restaurants owned by chefs who I see all the time on TV. One of the ones I had to try first was former Iron Chef’s Marc Forgione.
Marc Forgione isn’t just a celebrity chef. He’s the son of culinary legend Larry Forgione, was sous chef under Laurent Tourondel, worked in France, and became corporate chef for the BLT Restaurant Group. His eponymous restaurant is described on the website as “New American cuisine in a comfortable and energetic atmosphere,” and I would say that hits the nose on the head. The restaurant is off a quiet little street in Tribeca (or maybe I just think it’s quiet because every single time that I’m here it’s dark and rainy), and it has such great style and character–slightly masculine with its “well-worn feel” and dark color tones and totally cool with the brick walls and mood lighting. A lot of pieces throughout the restaurant have interesting histories like the cast iron doors, which were actually part of a building on Reade Street for over 150 years, the oven (used to warm the house potato rolls), which was originally a wood burning oven around 1880 to 1900, and the hutch behind the hostess stand, which is originally from a Rockefeller estate in Long Island. Then there are the personal touches on the shelves like cookbooks that were once owned by none other than James Beard himself and then gifted to Forgione’s father, a fish scaler from Forgione’s great grandfather, and a butter churn from Forgione’s great grandmother. When you walk in here, you don’t feel like you’re entering just another “nice” restaurant. At Marc Forgione, you’re seeing the product of someone’s passion, love, and life’s work.
“New American” is kind of a vague food descriptor but really does make the most sense here as the food pulls from all different kinds of cuisine from French to Native American. For starters there are things like kampachi tartare with avocado, pinenut, saratoga chips, and sechuan button; foie gras with husk cherries, brioche, and smoked almond jam; and parmigiano di reggiano soup dumplings with matsutake mushroom tea. For main entrees you can select from dishes like blue moon striped bass with foraged shrooms, potato confit, and sauce vin rouge; Jurgielewicz duck with wild rice pilaf, Bartlett pear, saffron, and sunflower seeds; and Creekstone Farms beef tenderloin with onions, lardo, and heirloom potatoes. Are you making your reservation yet?
I had been drooling over Forgione’s menu for quite some time before I dined here, so I didn’t even have to look at the menu to know what I wanted. I wanted the classics, the most-popular dishes. Chili lobster with Texas toast as an appetizer and the Bell & Evans chicken under a brick with yukon potatoes, broccoli rabe, and pan drippings as my main course. But before I can even begin talking about those, I have to mention the potato rolls and amuse-bouche. All tables get a serving of warm, potato rolls served with whipped butter, and they. are. heavenly. If you haven’t heard the term before, an amuse-bouche is like a little bite-sized hors d’oeuvre that comes before your meal, compliments of the chef and by his/her selection. Literally translated from French, it means “mouth amuser.” We received mini gougères (or savory cheese pastries) with Everything bagel seasoning and cucumber sandwiches. That bite of pastry was one of the best of the night, and I’m not even mad that it was just a teeny bit because it sure did it’s job of getting me excited for the food to come.
Let me preface talking about the chili lobster by saying that when Sam Sifton was dining critic for the New York Times and he ate this dish as part of his meal at Marc Forgione, he devoted a whole paragraph to it. When you order it, they give you a little bowl of lemon water to clean your fingers/hands afterwards, which I took as I sign that I should get in and get dirty. Juicy, juicy lobster is the way to my heart and when it’s paired with Sriracha butter? I can’t even. The butter has a nice kick to it but not so much that you can’t sop it all up with that thick Texas toast at the end.
The chicken under a brick entree is meant to be shared…but by how many people? That depends on your appetite. Split between myself and a friend, we had leftovers. The story behind this dish is that during the recession, the restaurant was short-staffed and things were busy that Forgione didn’t have time to season the chicken to order during dinnertime. He decided to season the skin in the morning instead, letting it cure in its salt in the fridge. Doing this means that the salt has time to penetrate the skin but the skin remains dry, resulting in some tasty, crispy skin! Oh yeah, and during the process you actually do put a brick on top of the chicken when it’s in the skillet so that the meat lies flat and the skin makes contact with the hot pan. At Marc Forgione, they serve it in the skillet all hot and bubbling, and it really is a feast for your eyes as well as your tummy. I hardly ever order chicken at restaurants, but with a preparation like this, I couldn’t resist.
As you might be guessing, I was in the mood to splurge during this meal. After waiting so long to eat here, I wasn’t about to just try one thing and peace out…I had to make the most of it! That means ordering TWO desserts. My friend and I split the blood orange souffle and the famous 10 minute cookies with milk. Both of us had never had a souffle that wasn’t chocolate before so we were intrigued. The lightness of the texture and flavor was refreshing, especially when contrasted with the warm, chocolatey, gooey, melt-in-your-mouth cookies. Yeah, definitely some of the best cookies I’ve ever had.
After that last piece of cookie we thought our magical evening at Marc Forgione was all over, but there was one more treat in store for us. A server came around and gave us a little bite of dessert to end the meal. I wish I could remember exactly what it was, but I think I had that point I was in food nirvana and not thinking too clearly. What I can say is that I don’t know the last time I felt so special and well-treated at a restaurant. The food was obviously fantastic, but it’s those little things that really send it over the top.
Everything I ate here didn’t just fulfill my foodie wishes but surpassed them. It was high-quality food that had very clearly been prepared with care, attention, and skill. Thanks Marc Forgione, for showing us how it’s done.
Chili lobster with Texas toast, Bell & Evans chicken under a brick, blood orange souffle, 10 minute cookies with milk
134 Reade St
New York, NY 10013