Taureau. 558 Broome Street, New York, NY 10013 Website: www.taureaunyc.com
Tonight’s lovely press dinner is brought to you by a repeat guest: Didier Pawlicki, the energetic owner/chef of the romantic La Sirene. Both restaurants share the same kitchen yet have completely different concepts. Taureau is all about fondue and only about fondue and is probably the only all fondue restaurant in the city. I had slight qualms about an all fondue restaurant ever since a sad, traumatic experience at The Melting Pot (tres gauche), but Didier worked his magic again to make this another fantastic food fest.
I remember walking into La Sirene thinking, “Oh, it’s cute in here,” but with Taureau, it was intimate, dark and sexy. My initial thought was, “How does it relate to a bull?” since Taureau means “bull” in French, but the enigmatic Didier had all this thought out: the element for the astrological sign Taureau is “earth” and all the ingredients and components were from or of the land. AND, this side of the premises had a raw feel that reminded me of a wine cellar, with slightly arched ceilings and exposed brick decor. Had it not been for the window looking out to the street, we could have been dining underground! Quite ingenious how this whole concept ties together, Didier. Very smart. He also takes pride in creating the fondue recipes and pairings himself. You may ask yourself, “Really, how complicated could it be to just melt something?” The chef really considered the additional ingredients that would compliment the melted cheese or bring out the flavors of the sides dipped in the fondue pots for each course so that every pairing and combination would work. He really is a creative genius. I’m convinced this guy could mastermind a plan to take over the world and no one would realize it until it’s too late. =)
Our group of 8 monopolized most of the space. This scene was the definition of intimate and I felt like this was more of a romantic couples spot as opposed to a large group dining setting (unless, your group took over the whole restaurant!). I realized that sitting on the outside of the table could have been a hazard because there are hot pots coming at you from behind and the custom electric heaters on the table get SUPER hot, but the waitstaff are pros. That and no one at a press dinner gets smashed enough to cause a scene or knock over scalding liquids anyway. haha Seriously, we had impeccable service and there were no spills or near misses from the Taureau team. C’est fantastique!
We started off with great wines to pair with the unlimited crouton and salad plate (wayyyyyy better than Olive Garden’s unlimited salad and breadsticks schtick), and the salad was quite nicely dressed. I didn’t have much of it because it was considered “filler” and I wanted to make sure there was plenty of room to try as many fondue bites as I could stuff in my face. The starter plate came with croutons, which were great bites to dip in the cheese!
And oh… the CHEESE… this was the best part of this evening’s production! Hell, I considered dipping the salad in the cheeses! Our group got to try a Cheddar/Monterey blend (tasty), a traditional Old Swiss melt (I usually don’t care for Swiss cheese but this was funky and full flavored), the Pyrenees with Swiss, white wine, garlic and nutmeg (apparently this was the first cheese fondue recipe Didier created and it was even BETTER than the Old Swiss with its great salty and hearty flavor and the nutmeg made it smell like autumn), and the crowd favorite: the Perigord, taking the Parmesan cheese option to the next level with truffle mushroom and truffle oil!!! I don’t care if snobby chefs say truffle is overused; Taureau infused it beautifully in this cheese pot and the flavors were divine. I’m pretty sure Didier isn’t surprised this earthy cheese pot is a clear winner.
We also got some lovely sides of broccoli, chorizo, fennel sausage, and portobello mushrooms to dip in the cheese pots. All the veggies were super fresh and the meats were quite nice to eat on their own, but the cheeses were so good you’d want to scrape the pots with all the goodies. Unfortunately, Vin and I were with a group of other foodies so this wouldn’t have looked too professional. hahaha If my math serves me correctly, that’s 16 different combinations of side dippers and cheese options. The fennel in the sausage went really well with the nutmeg in the Pyrenees and broccoli was tasty with all the cheese options. But everything with the truffle-Parmesan Perigord is amazing!
Next up were the MEATS! We were given a sampler of filet mignon, hanger steak, pork and chicken topped with sliced onions and carrots, and we tried red wine broth, simple and clean olive oil, a flavorful vegetable broth and peanut oil in the fondue pots. It was recommended that the steak be cooked for 10-15 seconds for perfect rare-medium rareness, and the pork and chicken should be cooked for 45 seconds. All the proteins were marinated and sliced and super tender. You’d have to be a complete idiot to ruin these delicious meat morsels in the broth pots. Even the chicken came out perfectly cooked each time. The broths infused a light flavor in cooking the meat so all of the options were great. Personally, I preferred the traditional olive oil for all the meats, and the red wine broth really complimented the steak pieces. We even tried frying the carrot and onion slices, and they came out so well Vin suggested we should fry carrots more often!
This course came with an assortment of sauces: Hollandaise, which was really nice and light; Gorgonzola, which was pretty pungent and funky and was pretty nice with the chicken; a spicy peppercorn that went well with alllll the meats; red wine reduction with mushroom that had a great truffle flavor and matched well with the red meats; and dijon, which was pretty good and paired nicely with the chicken and pork. I’m an Asian that’s now terrible at math, so I will just say the pairings for meats, broths and sauces are endless!
On to the dessert course… and the main point of this review. For me, fondue means dipping things in melted chocolate and being all retro and cool, and that’s what Didier planned on the menu. The chef keeps it simple by only offering milk chocolate or dark chocolate to dip a variety of fruits, marshmallows, homemade banana cake and light white chocolate cake. The dark chocolate pot was nice, like melted fudge and but not quite dark enough, so I preferred the milk chocolate for dipping. But really, you can’t go wrong with good chocolate. The best dippers were the marshmallows, bananas, strawberries, and of course, CAKE! These worked well with both fondues. The fruit tray also included kiwi which didn’t quite go with the dark chocolate. But it’s probably just me, since I don’t agree with all chocolate dipped fruit (I’mma looking at you, Edible Arrangements). Overall, the solid dippers were the most… solid dessert combinations. But I would have just gladly sipped the melted chocolate in a mug it was such nice and smooth hot chocolate, and the dessert sides were honestly quite delicious on their own. (P.S. Didier, this could be an additional drink item on the menu: hot chocolate with some liqueur! haha)
This place is wonderful for a romantic date: it’s dark and intimate and cozy (which is not great for phone pictures so thanks to Vin a.k.a. Johnny Prime for letting me steal his photos ♥ ) , the food and wine will put you in the mood AND not make you feel super full (uh, who wants to feel bloated on sexy datenight???), and the price is surprisingly reasonable. It was just all around fun to be able to play with your food and enjoy all these permutations of sides and fondue combinations. There are 2 standard prix fixe options: $43 pp or $52 pp with the choice of adding more sides a la carte, but I highly recommend going all out on the full Village menu for $52 pp to get the truffle cheese and steak fondue options! Just be ready to make a fun mess with cheese and oil and chocolate dripping everywhere and for your clothes to smell like delicious fried food for while (the peanut oil especially lingers!). It just means you won’t be forgetting your experience at Taureau any time soon! =)