[Pigging by Wilfrid: December 19, 2016]
This place came out of nowhere, as far as I was concerned. Instagram friends started posting (professional, staged) photos of meaty dishes: I looked it up, and it was in the old Garage space.
The Garage. I'd ordered margaritas there, in the big barn of a bar, but not in some years. It's on what became the touristy section of Seventh Avenue (upstairs at The Duplex and Marie's are hardly safe these days), and I should think a McNally-esque brasserie ought to do well.
Early days for the place, and still some quirks: Like the earnest presence of a bread plate never sullied with bread. I'd gripe, but I didn't see anyone else get bread either. A bread-free French restaurant? (I don't see any on the menu either; I checked.)
The name signals a meat theme, although I didn't actually see a butcher counter (as there once was at Les Halles). That at least gets us away from the typical New York French menu of burgers and pasta--although yes, those are options. Among the less obvious offerings: boudin noir, venison, and among the daily specials, cassoulet, bouillabaisse, and choucroute. The city needs a good choucroute now L'Absinthe is no more.
Unfortunately it wasn't Sunday--choucroute day--and a Mediterranean fish stew, no matter how legendary, seemed no answer to the New York winter. So blood pudding and venison for me.
The boudin was sourced from a US-based French supplier (I tried several times for the name, but couldn't penetrate my server's accent--which actually did seem to be French). It was unusual, bearing no resemblance either to the soggily moist boudins I've been served in New York French restaurants, or the drier, grainier morcilla you'll get at Latino places. It was firm, springy--the consistency, I'd say, of a cotechino. Oniony; enjoyable. Plenty of it, and well served by apple slices and a really good potato purée.
The light was dim: this is what I was reduced to. (If you want to see some brighter photos, try Johnny Prime--although he seems to have had some focus issues, even with his mighty lens: but believe me, when you're there, the food looks like my photos, not his.)
And the portions--massive. There was plenty of blood sausage, but the venison dish was gigantic--although it really didn't need to be served in a tin bucket. The menu listed côtes de chevreuil at $38 and $74, and I really wondered if I'd been served the high ticket version for two people. Two very thick venison chops over mounds of crisp, fresh "market" vegetables--vegetables are good here--all touched by a rich reduction. And I'd been offered a side dish.
I suspect New Zealand venison, only mildly gamy. I admit I didn't love the herb crust. It had a fishy touch. Now you might well add some anchovy to a venison--or lamb or mutton--stew, but if that was the chef's approach here, it needs to be a little more restrained. But the meat was pleasant, on the medium side of the requested medium-rare, but close enough.
There was nowhere to stow cheeses after all that, although they do have a selection (charcuterie too, of course). With a few glasses of wine, just two courses predictably reached three figures including tax and tip. No revelations, but I was certainly fed.
Here's the Moulin Rouge-y website.