LM Le Restaurant
Lincoln Square gets special-occasion dining, but is it celebrating?
In neighborhoods like Lincoln Square, tacking “Tavern,” “Pub” or “Bar and Grill” onto your name seems to ensure success. By day, the stroller-pushers try to beat the brunch lines; by night, thirtysomethings roll up their jersey sleeves for juicy burgers and cold beers. Contrary to the blocks of nice homes priced well past the half-million-dollar mark, this is not a fancy neighborhood.
So why open a fancy restaurant here? Aside from the fact that a man named Stephan Outrequin Quaisser would probably rather choke on a cuff link than be attached to anything less than elegant, the owner of LM Le Restaurant has said he doesn’t want Lincoln Square locals to have to trek downtown to celebrate a special occasion. So he’s taken over Tallulah, dipped the whole place in an amber glow and brought in chef Brad Phillips to execute a laundry list of French classics. Thankfully, Phillips lightens and modernizes things a bit, adding sunchokes to buttery seared scallops or an apple-radish salad to a pan-roasted pork loin. And even more thankfully, diners don’t need to skip a mortgage payment on those nice homes to afford a swank night out—entrées average just over 20 bucks.
But we all know you don’t go to a place like this and just get an entrée, so if you’re really celebrating, order up a bottle of Veuve and dive into the veal sweetbreads. Nice and browned outside, moist and tender inside, the plump sweetbreads arrived with caramelized onion ravioli topped by sauce zingara, a bright white-wine reduction sporting matchstick-size slivers of veal tongue. (Don’t tell your squeamish friends what it is and I guarantee they’ll lick the plate.) It’s a tough act to follow, but that’s not the only reason the wild mushroom ragout failed—its partner the farm egg was perfectly poached, but the fat slices of king trumpet mushroom were completely unseasoned, letting the whole dish fall flat. Lobster bisque, a bit watery and one-note, left me similarly deflated, but things perked up with a pan-roasted poussin—the baby-chicken leg was cooked confit for deep richness and crispy skin, with plenty of buttery pan sauce on the plate to keep things juicy and a handful of chanterelles scattered around to remind you what season we’re in. Like the poussin, the veal cheeks were rich enough to get elected mayor of New York, but the panisse (chickpea-flour cake) alongside had zero flavor. A textbook crème brûlée and a perfect apple tarte Tatin with freshly whipped cream ended things on a high note, but it was tough not to have a bit of motion sickness from all the ups and downs.
No Dramamine necessary for brunch, though—it turned out to be as relaxed and elegant as brunch was when rich Southern ladies dreamed it up to get some extra miles out of their church hats. They’d fit in at LM, where croissants (sourced from La Patisserie P) are properly flaky, and omelettes, fat with lobes of Brie and caramelized shallots, are properly yellow and soft. The problem with all this properness is that, for brunch and to some extent dinner, Lincoln Square doesn’t seem to know what to make of it. While I lapped up the last bit of my eggs Benedict’s tomato-spiked hollandaise in an empty LM, the line for the adjacent Bad Dog Tavern grew and grew. The game was blaring, kids were wailing, Uggs-clad women yapped on cell phones, but everyone seemed perfectly content—everyone except my poor server, who tried to keep busy while wondering when the celebrating would begin.