March 19-29, 2012, was Dine in Brooklyn Week, when people all over NYC have a chance to sample a 3-course meal in some of the best dining establishments in the borough for $25. While I wished I could have taken advantage of many of the great restaurants that are opening in Brooklyn—making it THE new culinary hotspot—alas, I was only able to try one (when you’re broke, $25 is a lot of money). That place was Soigne on 6th Ave. and 10th St. in Park Slope.
The word soigné in French means “well-groomed, sleek, sophisticated elegance,” which it delivered in both their ambiance and food. The décor was instantly pleasing. Its chic, upscale look was tempered with a sense of warmth and casualness. I saw people dining there in t-shirts (which I don’t necessarily approve of because unless you’re going to a burger joint or a Cracker Barrel, I think you should put on a nice shirt), and one table had a toddler in a high-chair. The lighting was intimate but bright enough that you could see what you were eating. They also have outside seating, which in warmer months will be very pleasant on 6th Ave., which is mostly residential and has less traffic than the busier 4th, 5th, and 7thAvenues.
I started my meal with a coconut margarita on the rocks with salt. They were not stingy with the tequila, and the drink packed a bit of a punch. Although, I can’t say that the coconut flavor was as upfront as I would have liked. We then ordered from a prix fixe menu.
The servers brought to our table two silver tumblers of bouchées, which are small pastries, usually puffed and filled with something. Translated, bouchée means “mouthful,” referring to their size (they were about the size of small cream puffs). These bouchées were made with cheese (probably gruyère), so I was surprised that they weren’t referred to as gougères, which are traditional French cheese puffs. They had a sharp, salty flavor that cheese lovers would appreciate, but may not appeal to everyone, as was the case at my table.
Next, we were treated to an amuse-bouche of cold potato soup. Again, I don’t know why they didn’t call it vichyssoise, unless they anticipated being asked a million times what it was and just decided to call it what it is, but whatever. The soup was served in little cups and had bits of bacon floating on top. One of the members of my party is a vegan and requested that they give her a soup without bacon and they happily accommodated her. (She would have picked them off the top except that they said that the bacon sometimes sinks into the soup.) The soup was silky and delicious with a slight hint of sweetness. Coupled with the bouchées, it was an outstanding start to the meal.
For the first course, I had Jerusalem Artichoke Soup, containing wild mushrooms and topped with chives and artichoke chips. It was light but so satisfying. The mushrooms added a nice meatiness and the chips gave it a delicate crunch. Two of my friends had the crab cakes, which I tasted. I’m not a big seafood fan and, admittedly, they were a bit on the fishy side for me, but aside from that, they were fresh and well seasoned—not too much, not too little—and they were complimented by a white balsamic-tomato jam. Alas, no one had the spring salad. I would have loved to try that as well, since it contained trumpet royale mushrooms, roasted fennel, frisée, and chevre and was dressed in a sherry vinaigrette. Sounded good.
For the second course, I had English Pea Risotto, with mascarpone, white truffle, and a parmigiano-reggiano tuile. It was truly delicious. I thought the rice could have been cooked just a drop more, but other than that, everything worked together perfectly. The mascarpone gave it a nice creaminess, while the tuile provided the crunch. One friend ordered the 8 oz. Boneless Rib Eye and she enjoyed it immensely. I tried some the truffled French fries that accompanied it and they were addictive. The seasoning was bold but not overpowering and I could definitely detect the truffle powered (I’m assuming it was truffle powder). It also came with Cabernet-black pepper butter and watercress.
Another friend ordered the duck confit, which came on a bed of lentils dup puy, white asparagus, and red wine-poached salsify. I didn’t get to taste any of it, but it looked beautifully cooked and judging from its disappearing act, I believe my friend enjoyed it.
Other choices on the pri fixe menu were Pan-Roasted Skate with Yukon gold gnocchi, favas, morels, sunchoke puree, and sunchoke emulsion; and Niman Ranch Pork Tenderloin with roasted apple, fingerling potatoes, glazed cippollinis, and grain mustard bordelaise.
For dessert, we had two choices: Valrhona Chocolate Flourless Torte and Vanilla Bean Cheesecake. The torte was great, as sumptuous as you’d expect a flourless cake to be and as chocolaty as you’d expect a Valrhona dessert to be. There was, however, some displeasure over the strawberry puree that came with it—some felt that it wasn’t sweet enough. I disagreed. The cake is sweet enough and I thought the puree was a nice counterbalance. It was topped with crème fraiche cream, which lightened everything up.
The cheesecake was smooth, cream,y and satisfying and the vanilla bean flavor came through. The black plum caramel was less sugary than regular caramel, and I liked that. The honey-poached plum on top, however, was probably the one thing that was unanimously disliked at the table. They were not ripe and, therefore, a bit tart, yet they were bland. And for something that was “honey-poached,” those otherwise pretty slices should have tasted sweeter. Believe me, I’m not a huge sugar person; I have a limit to how much sweetness I can stand in a dessert, so for me to say that it needed to be sweeter, it needed to be sweeter.
At the end, we were treated again to a plate of little cookies, chocolate with a cream filling that reminded me of dulce de leche. It was grainer than dulce de leche but delicious nonetheless.
The total, with drinks, was $40 per person. An incredible deal for a restaurant that is normally on the pricey side. We all walked out of there very satisfied. It was a visually and orally satisfying meal, and the servers were very pleasant and accommodating. We were won over.