Exceptional New American dining is found on a particularly peaceful stretch of Greenwich Street. With adventurous and novel flavor combinations, Recette feels like a very lucky discovery to share furtively between friends.
I subscribe to a piece of wisdom passed down to me from my mother that one’s life changes measurably every five years. In our earliest years the change is of course the most dramatic, but when we truly introspect, we remember how radically different 20 and 25 were, and, I’m told, even how separate we feel from 50 at 55.
While certain themes may be consistent throughout the many years of our lives, this dynamic passage of time is also reflected in our many cultures and institutions. If we focus on one place, one restaurant, we can see that like a life well lived, this change is always for the better.
Indeed, Recette in 2015 is much different than Recette in 2010, when the restaurant first opened on a sleepy corner in the West Village. In 2010, Recette soared to the trendiest heights after the little-known restaurant was given a 2-star review in The New York Times, and despite the often revelatory dishes coming out of the kitchen led by chef Jesse Schenker, people began to complain that tables in the tiny, unpretentious space were too difficult to reserve, servers were too distracted, the room was too cramped and too noisy.
If only these naysayers had had a little faith in the power of time, for 5 years later, Recette has become a quiet, even romantic gem serving some of the best food in the neighborhood. Though the restaurant is still always full, same day reservations can be made for a weekend night, and its patrons are less concerned with the latest culinary hotspot than they are with the exceptional, French-influenced cuisine being served.
Snacks like the Bone Marrow Toast with onion marmalade and trout roe are so perfectly complete in their flavors and so flawless in their execution that it’s easy to imagine these buttery bites as the best ever made. Chef Schenker’s "Buffalo" Sweetbreads with pickled celery and blu di bufala dip will also turn anyone into an offal fanatic, with little morsels of sweetbread poached and then dusted in seasoning and coated in a Sriracha-based sauce.
Though the restaurant’s menu appears to only list several small plates for sharing, the plates are actually significant enough to compose a traditional meal if preferred. Appetizer-sized dishes like the Beef Carpaccio, which elegantly wraps itself around creamy burrata, tomato jam, porcini puree, and is topped with basil seeds and watercress, are an imaginative and wholly satisfying beginning to the meal.
This refined, creative style culminates in several of the larger dishes toward the bottom of the menu, particularly the Duck Breast with artichoke fondue, black currant, and swiss chard, a fully composed dish with notes of sweetness, salt, bitterness, and rich savoriness all operating in harmony. The Rabbit "Pot Pie" with mushroom paste, puff pastry, kohlrabi cabbages, and radishes is another inspired success whose stylishly informal treatment of the protein has resulted in new creamy, earthy flavors.
While it’s easy to spend a pretty penny at Recette, the staff today is nothing but relaxed and genuine to all of their guests, and regulars are easily drawn back to the high-level concept and graceful casualness of the place.
Indeed, dining at Recette in 2015 is like going to a neighborhood karaoke bar and discovering someone who can sing like Adele. The restaurant has become personal, a sophisticated yet intimate space with a pervading sense of new discovery. So when talking about Recette to friends at a later date, it’s okay to announce that you’ve just discovered a new restaurant in the West Village that everyone should try. It’s been 5 years, and Recette has just entered a new phase in its life.