Amidst the the New York kosher restaurant scene there are few establishments as well known as Le Marais so chances are, that if you keep kosher and are living in the Greater New York area you have eaten there. It was one of the first restaurants I ate at repeatedly when I first moved to Manhattan years ago. The problem however, was, that back then I would go to Le Marais, order steak and fries and like so many others contentedly eat a meal that was tasty and well prepared but deeply below the restaurants’ culinary potential. Because of this I labeled Le Marais as a simple steak joint writing it off as such in my mind. Then, at last years Kosher Food and Wine Experience the people at the Le Marais booth handed me a plate of their Chili Marocaine, a spicy lamb chili served with a dollop of avocado relish. That chili changed my perception, as I realized that for years I had been underestimating a restaurant I had eaten in dozens of times because of my failure to order more adventurously. And so I arranged to go back to Le Marais to sample some of the best and unfortunately least ordered dishes on the menu.
Upon my return to Le Marais I took a seat in a comfortable leather chair at a table situated in their upstairs dining area. I ordered a flight of beers from their truly impressive selection and asked the restaurant manager to bring me anything and everything that was different or rarely ordered. Rising to the occasion the kitchen first sent me out Les Rillettes du Boucher. Made from confit duck and veal and then turned into a pate this dish is creamy, rich and delicious. Eaten with a French bread crostini and a small slice of cured veal this dish is by a wide margin one of the most extravagant and wonderful that I have ever eaten. Following was an equally good Magret de Canard Fume, a smoked duck breast which was served on a bed of French lentils that had been lightly dressed in a vinaigrette. The duck was tender with a delicate smokey flavor that paired nicely with the al dente lentils.
For my main course I deviated from the standard steak and tried the Flat Iron Steak with a celery root puree and shimeji mushrooms. The steak is served with an Asian style barbecue sauce that is sweet and earthy and brings out flavor of the dry aged meat. This in combination with the creamy celery root make for a very hearty yet elegant dish. I also sampled the Jarret d’ Agneau, a braised leg of lamb in mustard sauce. The lamb melts in your mouth and the tangy mustard flavor is perfectly infused into the meat. This dish was paired with a rosemary spaetzel that helped temper the fat of the lamb with its mild herbiness.
Desert came next in the form of one of the more clever dishes I have been served the Fluffernutter a’ ala Francaise which is a comical twist on the common children favorite. Two slices of pistachio cake sandwiched around a peanut butter mousse and then glazed with a marshmallow meringue. This amazingly delectable confection is nestled in a small pool of chocolate and banana sauce. This desert was the perfect end to a meal that was a unique dining experience.
As I ate, sipping one of the craft beers, I glanced at the tables around me. They were filled with business men, daters, theater patrons and countless others who like me in the past were eating steak and fries. I felt a strong urge to jump onto my seat and yell “for G-d sakes people try the Rillettes du Boucher.” Instead however, I wrote this article because I know that sooner or later you will be back at Le Marias. You will have tickets to a show, get set up with a girl or perhaps your firm will be hosting a dinner there, but whatever it is that brings you to Le Marais, I beg you to please be bold with your order. Try something different that you wouldn’t have thought of before. I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.