Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wilted arugula and precious cheese at Pigalle

With my mom in town and a bunch of the bro's friends visiting, Monday night found us at Pigalle for a convivial and relatively reasonably priced meal. I used to go to Pigalle all the time and usually found the food to be good but the service atrocious. After a hiatus of a year or more, I was back to see whether the place still had its game on.

The short answer: no. But before I get into that, the highlight-- the bread basket. The bread at Pigalle is delicious, chewy with a substantial crust and good butter. However, it must be noted that the kitchen doesn't slice the loaves all the way through, so you have to wrestle with the whole loaf to rip yourself off an inevitably mangled slice. After three or four slices (not that I had three slices of bread. Ahem.), your arms get tired. I mean, hypothetically.

Intractable bread

For appetizers, we had two takers for the caesar salad. It looked standard, with croutons very clearly of the Pepperidge-Farm-from-a-box genre, but was definitely ample.

Does ANYBODY like those croutons?

AG went for the onion soup. It had some good melted cheese action and came in the appropriate brown-and-white crock. You know which one I mean.

Yeah, that one.

Appetizers (and several more loaves of bread) dispatched, we moved on to the entrees. Two members of our party had ordered the grilled yellowfin tuna, which came with grilled zucchini, roasted tomato and caper sauce, and a big cow patty of basil mashed potatoes. The mashed potatoes were suprisingly addictive (I ate most of them off my mom's plate), and the zucchini was zucchini-y but a bit oily and unseasoned.

So many battling grill marks

Two more diners ordered the steak-frites. The steak was huge-- but in my brother's portion, a big chunk of it was gristle. I tried a fry and it was nothing special.

Fries were a bit crispy and undersalted

AG ordered the caramelized pear salad, which came with spiced walnuts, dried cherries, and fourme d'ambert cheese. She requested goat cheese instead of the blue cheese, a substitution the kitchen has made gladly many times in the past, when we used to order that very same salad with frequency. This time, however, the waiter informed us that there would be a $2.50 additional charge for the goat cheese. This precipitated a small scene at our table-- WTF?? As AG put it, she wasn't even asking them to add anything to the salad, she was simply asking the cook to put his hand in a different bin. Regardless, the cheese was ordered, and it came out grilled, which was weird (and not to AG's taste). As a final denoument, the $2.50 cheese charge never showed up on the bill. Score!

The goat cheese looks like seared scallops.

My own selection was the arugula and roasted portabello salad. I requested the dressing on the side, a request they honored. The thing was, the waiter handed me my salad, and the arugula was... gross. I mean, it was yellow and wilted. Take a look:

Sad, sad, sad.

Now, I pretty much never send things back in restaurants, unless the kitchen has made an egregious mistake. And I was about to tuck into this nasty, skanky salad. But my mom encouraged me to ask them to replace it: after all, this salad had two ingredients, and one of them was arugula, and the arugula was icky. So I did, and the waiter was really nice about it, and he brought a new salad with pristene, lovely arugula, and no visible traces of the chef's saliva to boot. The new one looked like this:

So much better!

After all that, the salad was pretty average-- it was a lot of arugula and a bit of marinated roasted portabello, which was good but scarce in quantity. I wouldn't order the salad again.

After a lengthy debate post-entree, we ended up skipping dessert, paying the tab, and taking off. It should be noted that in addition to the food issues, the service was up and down-- there were long stretches where water and soda glasses went unfilled, but our waiter was genial and cordial throughout, which was pleasantly unexpected. I used to really like Pigalle, but now that I've found so many better options in the neighborhood, I wouldn't readily go back, except (perhaps) for the bread. Other members of our party enjoyed their food quite a bit, however, so taking that into consideration I'll give Pigalle a meager two Offset Spatulas.

790 Eighth Avenue, at 48th Street

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