As I've mentioned before, one of our supervisors at work takes out our whole staff (about 9 of us) each quarter for a delicious lunch 'meeting.' Okay, it's really more of a lunch, though somehow we still end up talking shop more than not. This time we went to Artisanal on a rainy, bleak, wet November day.
Our table was in the middle of the room, and though there were 10 of us, the table was probably a better fit for 6 or 7 people. We were really jammed in there, almost on top of each other.
You can't go to a French place and not get the light, cheese-filled cheese puffs, so we ordered 2 rounds of gougeres for the table. They didn't come until we'd almost finished our entrees, but they were well worth the wait. Puffy cheesy perfection.
Service was quite spotty, with our servers suddenly changing without notice, and our second server seeming a bit lost. It took him 3 or 4 trips back to remember some bread for my friend who'd ordered the small cheese plate as her entree (pics below). I could be wrong, but I think he might not have completely understood English.
For the appetizer, I ordered the classic French onion soup, and it was absolutely brilliant. Salty beef broth, deeply-caramelized onions, and a chewy top of bread and almost-endless cheese. I scraped every last bit of this out of the heavy crock.
Patty, sitting to my left, ordered the risotto with butternut squash. A-MAY-ZING. This dish was buttery, creamy, all the fabulous flavors of fall in a perfectly planned-out dish. Sometimes risotto can sit heavily with you--not this dish!
Mel ordered the beet salad, with tender chunks of roasted red and golden beets, dotted with soft bits of goat cheese, and she loved it. It was beautiful, too.
My main dish was the lamb ragout. I don't really eat enough lamb to warrant cooking it at home, but maybe in 2011 I'll give it a shot. This ragout was delicious, and the chewy noodles really made the whole thing come together.
Several others ordered the mussels, and I don't think there were any left in their bowls! Their orders also came with bread to sop up the aromatic and appetizing sauce.
Patty ordered the skate and sweetly shared a bite with me. Skate has a very... pronounced flavor. I would say if you're not into strong fish, skip this one. Flounder and cod and other whitefish are a bit more palatable to a lot of people, but skate is very particular.
Mel ordered the cheese plate for one, and it also came with thinly sliced pears and tart apples. As is so often the case with cheese plates, no one could tell us what the cheeses were. Gah. Mel had to wait a good 30 minutes for her bread, but that's about on par with the service I've had and have heard from others there.
The lobster salad, which I briefly considered ordering, was lovely, and the person who ordered it assured us it tasted as wonderful as it looked!
Now I know you know us well enough to know we saved room for dessert...stay tuned!
2 Park Ave
New York, New York