A warm, charming Alpine getaway in the city, perfect for friends who are always dreaming of wine and cheese.
If you know people in the East Village, chances are you haven't missed the Instagram videos of molten cheese being scraped from a tire-sized wheel onto a plate of delicately French cornichons, pickled pearl onions, potatoes, and hunks of airy baguette. Yes, Raclette is a cheese lover's fantasy, a glorious ode to melted fromage, but it is also a cozy, little restaurant that reminds us to always take pleasure in the very social nature of eating.
Raclette is actually not a new concept at all. In fact, the namesake dish originated in the Swiss Alps in the late 13th century, where great wheels of this particular cheese were melted and consumed over an open fire. It has since become a very popular dish in the region around the holidays, part of a meal lasting several hours, where families can come together from the cold outdoors to socialize, eat, and drink. Sensing this was an experience missing from New York's dining scene, chef Edgar Villongco originally opened a 12-seat shop on Avenue A, dedicated to this art of scraping blistered, bubbling cheese, and has since expanded to a much larger storefront on 12th Street.
The raclette dishes on the menu here all feature the same cheese taken from a half-wheel of raclette that is propped on its side and exposed to a heating rod that melts a few inches of the exposed surface. Once lightly browned and expertly gooey, the cheese is then scraped tableside onto a plate of chosen vegetables and charcuterie. The Suisse plate is arguably the most popular and most authentically Swiss, with roasted new potatoes, cornichons, dried viande sechée, and proscuitto, but for a bigger, local bang, the New York plate offers eight ounces of chauteaubriand steak and sauteed mushrooms with the warmed cheese.
The restaurant also serves up croques and tartines as alternatives to this fromage-heavy meal, and the fig tartine with brillat savarin cheese, tiny rolls of pruscuitto, toasted hazenuts, and a balsamic reduction is a heavenly salty and sweet plate worthy of a visit in its own right. The Havana croque with pulled pork, dijon mustard, pickles, and a bit of raclette cheese all on a toasted cuban roll is also rich and spicy, but still a clear understudy to the star plates of the restaurant.
There is no liquor license for this tiny storefront either, but BYO a bottle of dry white wine, or two, take some videos, and eat a pound of cheese for a couple of hours with friends. After a long, cold day in New York, it becomes clear that this is where raclette was always supposed to evolve.