For a restaurant to name itself Philosophe, you would expect it to hear some statements of grandeur on its website, about how the cuisine takes cues from the philosophical minds whose portraits adorn the walls in the dining room. There is none. There isn’t even an “About” page.
Maybe then we can find the dictum of culinary transcendence on the menu, nope, nothing here either except a simple Appetizer, Entree, Dessert layout.
Perhaps then, the folks behind Le Philosophe has found their inspiration from less ostentatious sources, philosophy of the laymen, which is simplicity.
In the era where chefs try to differentiate their cooking by statements printed on the menu, Le Philosophe separate themselves from the pack by cooking the French classics, better. Looking at the success of Keith McNally’s Pastis, and I’m surprised there aren’t more casual classic French restaurants in the city.
Aside from the wall of portraits of contemporary philosophers, the layout of this restaurant is little changed from its previous tenant Hung-Ry. This cobble-stoned stretch of Bond Street is remarkably quiet, and the many one way streets make vehicular traffic quite light despite its proximity to Bowery. Great place to dine, but challenging for the restaurants to get passerby’s into the door.
Oysters, offered on both the lunch and dinner menus, are very reasonably priced at $18 for a dozen. The day’s East Coast variety was Charles Island from Connecticut, and the West Coast was Kumamoto. Both varieties were fairly well shucked, and paired with a nice refreshing vinaigrette with finely diced red onions.
The salad is an unique assortment of vegetables, combining traditional salad greens (arugula, watercress) with leaves that are usually used as herbs (dill, parsley), and a few pieces of beets. The result, tossed lightly in a very tart citrus vinaigrette and coarse salt, is full of flavor.
Cured Foie Gras Terrine was gorgeously plated with two slices of thick toast, and coriander fruit on the side as garnish. I’m not a devout fan of foie gras, as I only enjoy an occasional piece of foie at French restaurants. This piece was superb. It was rich, but not overwhelmingly so.
The Flat Iron (word steak curiously missing from menu) is your standard steak frites, with a generous portion of fries that would make McDonald’s proud. The meat was very tender, and flavored wonderfully with a shallow bit of bordelaise sauce at the bottom of the plate. My only complaint would be that the fries had too much salt.
Blanquette de Veau is a veal stew that is paired with a small pot of rice. The veal is cooked beautifully tender, and the stew texture was nice and silky without being too thick.
I wanted to end this piece with a deep, philosophical quote befitting of the name of the restaurant. Then again, perhaps it’s best to keep it simple and stick to the classical descriptors. A hearty recommendation.
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