In 2015, there were a number of awesome new restaurants that opened, and (in part due to the fact that we got a brand new kitchen and I was cooking my brains out) barely got to scratch the surface of these new spots. With that in mind, we have decided to check out 5 new restaurants in 2016. Our definition of ‘new’ includes anything that opened in January 2015 or later, and the two spots we are hitting this Winter Restaurant Week both fit that description.
Our first stop was Tuesday night at The Twisted Frenchman, an innovative French restaurant that opened last year in the spot that formerly housed Notion in East Liberty. While we had visited & enjoyed its predecessor, we weren’t blown away by their offerings, and we were excited to see what a new chef and a new concept could bring.
We are officially in love.
Our dinner started off with a leisurely round of good cocktails and stewing over the menu. We double dated with some fellow foodie-minded friends of ours, so there was some very serious discussion of what to eat. To drink? Aviations were on the cocktail menu. I believe this needs no further explanation.
The Restaurant Week menu featured 3 options of appetizers and entrees for $35.16. Once we had each selected an item from each menu, we decided we needed to be a little more thorough for our review, so we added on what our server Johnny referred to as ‘middle course’ in a third dish from the regular appetizer menu.
While we waited for our meals, Johnny brought us out some ultra-fresh bread from La Gourmandine and salted butter. This disappeared quickly, so he brought us even more, which was a great call after we realized just how dippable all of our food was going to be.
For my appetizer, I got the beet & goat cheese salad. This appetizer was petite, but packed full of flavor. The beets were prepared five ways: roasted, pickled, powdered, raw, and as chips. A small portion like this really allows you to focus on savoring the flavor of each beet.
Husband got a more sizable appetizer, the potato and leek soup with crème fraîche and roasted maitake mushroom. I don’t know how they pulled this off, but the soup was creamy to a degree we didn’t know possible. This was earthy and savory, and I have to admit I stole more than a few spoonfuls.
For our ‘middle course,’ we ordered the fish & chips. Yet again, this dish achieved a textural dimension that I am not quite sure I understand. This had all the comfort-food feels of a church fish fry sandwich, but without the grease and heavy, fatty sensation. The fish was densely packed but lightweight, with this ultra-crispy and light fried breading. Basically, if you ask me, this is a shining example of fish-witchery, with a creamy caper aioli and tiny little blue potato crisps on the side.
All three of my dining partners ordered the duck from the Restaurant Week menu for their entrees. I’m not a duck fan for the most part, but this could have convinced me. An elegant medium-rare with no hint of the gamey or oily aspects that usually turn me off from duck. This was just meaty and tender and well-accompanied by the sweet potato and parnsip and foie gras emulsion.
But I’m sorry. As much as I hate to play favorites at a good restaurant… my entree takes the prize. It’s truffle season at the Frenchman, and for my entree, I got the ricotta and perigord truffle agnolotti in sage butter sauce. WOW. If you love earthy, savory flavors, this is the dish for you. Buttery and soft in texture, this dish just blew me away. After the agnolotti was done, I sopped up the butter with some more baguette from La Gourmandine. It was just THAT. GOOD.
But we couldn’t leave without dessert. We decided to each try a dessert, so we were able to sample both the chocolate and vanilla offerings. Ordering dessert was an even bigger treat, as it was prepared in part at our table by none other than Chef (and owner) Andrew Garbarino himself.
Okay. Let me just say this: there is nothing I like better about a great restaurant than when it has a hands-on chef who just LOVES food and the craft as much as Chef Andrew does. His passion for French cooking and bringing good food to good people is clearly evident. I’m not usually much for the showy-ness of molecular gastronomy, but if you really seem like you’re just having a blast pouring liquid nitrogen into ice cream the way Chef Andrew was, I am 100% sold.
And I got the incredibly delicious chocolate dessert, with brownie and that re-frozen chocolate ice cream. Again, the light and fluffy textures of this dessert were out of this world. It was really hard for me to share, but I did my best!
Truly, we can’t say enough good things about this meal and this restaurant. The staff was fantastic, the pace of the meal terrific, and the food was unlike any French cuisine I’ve had before. The dining room is tiny, so I recommend getting a reservation (which you can do online, bonus!), but I am certain you will fall in love with the Twisted Frenchman just as much as we did!