For the purpose of this review, I'm only referring to Cherche Midi as "New Pulinos" because I can never remember this restaurant's name, let alone attempt to pronounce yet, despite being here three times and staring at the website for hours. Yes, I come from the Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good, go easy on me. New Pulinos is obviously in the space that old Pulinos used to be in. Keith McNally is a smart business man. When he saw that the whole fancy pizza at extreme decibel levels thing wasn't bringing home the sopresseta the way you had hoped, he shut it down and started over. Smart move. You can charge a lot more for French food than you can for pizza.
New Pulinos is exactly what we thought it would be. McNally re-arranged the room a bit, stuffed as many tables as humanly possibly inside, faxed all their well tanned, well botoxed VIPs, and it's been slammed since day one. It feels like dining in Miami - lots of shiny rich people who think they're dressed incredibly well, and are on the cutting edge. In reality though, they look terrible and couldn't be further from cool. As far as People Watching is concerned though, it doesn't get any better than this. One thing we noticed is that they built in a new layer of soundproofing. Listen, we're all for loud restaurants, but Pulinos was on another level, so bringing the volume down a little bit was absolutely necessary.
The food at New Pulinos is solid. It's a greatest hits menu full of French and American crowd pleasers. Some of the dishes like the pot de fromage and lobster ravioli flash refined kitchen skills, and others like the are simply meat and butter on a plate with fries. Our biggest problem with New Pulinos is how tight everything is, and how obvious it is that they're trying to turn your non-VIP table quickly. There's just nowhere to put all the people. They packed probably five tables too many in this place, and trying to get around is like playing a game of Marble Madness. You get bumped all meal long by waitstaff trying to get by, and are literally inside the entree of the table next to you. Plus, the amount of actual table space real estate you're afforded is laughable, especially with the fast rate they bring food out here in hopes of that table turn. When the bar fill up, people start hanging out in random space between tables, and the next thing you know you've got a strangers ass in your face as you dig into a $48 slice of prime rib.
Complaints aside, you know exactly what you're getting into at a new McNally restaurant. The scene is all part of the program, and he always does a nice job of balancing the ridiculousness of the crowd with tasty EEEEEATS. We'll be psyched to eat here again, both for the food and the Miami vibes.
Cherche Midi Crudités
A nice colorful spread of pickled vegetables, salami, edible flowers and dipping sauces. $19 for a crudité is a bit on the offensive side, but it's certainly a nice way to kick off a meal.
Pan-Roasted Foie Gras
Their foie is fantastic. Warm, rich, and the perfect amount of sweet, the roasted foie comes with a rhubarb compote to spread all over their homemade brioche. This is a good situation to get into.
Pot de Fromage Parmesan Custard
One of New Pulinos' signature dishes according to our server, their pot of cheese lived up to the hype. Served in a jar, the "pot" has the consistency and character of perfectly cooked eggs, with some added sweetness from the parmesan custard. Like most dishes on the appetizer section on the menu, this is served with warm bread - an anchovy butter toast.
Homemade Lobster Ravioli
Hands down, the best dish on the menu. When you come to New Pulinos, you order the lobster ravioli. This is pretty much a big bowl of butter, cream, lobster, peppers and pasta. What's not to love? We were actually impressed with the serving size too, usually with a dish as decadent as a lobster ravioli, you pay $28 and get four raviolis. New Pulinos ain't skimpy with their ravioli.
Whole Grilled Daurade
Simple and well executed, the full fish had a well flavored crispy skin, and nice buttery filet underneath. Dodge the bones and enjoy. We'd order this again, for sure.
Bone-in Skate Wing Meuniere
OK, now starts with the disappointment. We don't understand skate on the bone, which they pushed hard on us too. We don't want to be picking bones out of our mouth when eating a fish like skate, and we're way happier eating this fish on its own. You get so bogged down in trying not to swallow a vertebrae, that you don't really even care whether or not the fish tastes good.
Steak smothered in butter and fries on a plate. Nothing wrong with this situation. Nothing life changing either.
Prime Rib burger
OK, so we'd heard a lot about this burger and how they put a lot of work into it, hoping to get it somewhere close to the level of the Black Label Burger served at their sister restaurant, Minetta Tavern. It's definitely a very good burger, but we didn't have that romantic experience in our mouths if you know what I mean and it's not something we'd come back for. The prime rib gives it an overly meaty flavor, which is further assisted by the bacon marmalade it's smothered in. Some people will most definitely freak out for it, but for us, it was simply fine.