Despite the fact that I have driven by it probably 800 times, Petrossian remained unfamiliar to me. The crisp white table clothes and caviar centric menu never really called my name. It's not that I am averse to caviar, but I only appreciate it when treated appropriately... As a delicacy, and one that enhances already wonderfully flavored foods to make them better. And thus I never sought caviar out, but would have a bite here and there when it's featured on a tasting menu or as a garnish.
Most recently a friend pressed the issue. Petrossian is her love. Not only does she know the menu inside and out, but she spent some time working there. Always up for a new challenge, I was more than obliged when she suggested a girls lunch there. I had read that there was an eager young new chef who was mixing it up and I was curious.
Giselle Wellman proved to be just that and more. It's always telling to meet a Chef and far and wide they are not the social type. However, Giselle is extremely personable. She exudes passion, friendliness and curiosity. She is not afraid to push the envelope yet maintains the viewpoint that food should be approachable. As most Chefs come to the dining room for a quick hello and run back to the cave they call "kitchen," Wellman was excited to share her inspirations and techniques.
Lunch was a small sample but last night I was able to get the full monty, so to speak, with a 9 course tasting meal.
The beauty of this restaurant is the ability to have an incredibly knowledgeable and experienced chef at your fingertips. Usually chefs with Wellman's credentials are far too busy to pay attention to any one table. However, the intimacy of Petrossian encourages just the opposite. Wellman admits she has time to play with new dishes regularly and loves the freedom a small operation offers. And how many people have kilos of caviar at their disposal to be creative with?! With this freedom comes new twists on classics like a beautiful muscovy duck breast topped with meringue or a grilled cheese with caviar.
The 9 course meal started with an "Caviar Papierusse"- brioche, egg yolk and dill, and the papierusse is a gelatin type sheet of caviar. An incredible garnish, it added just a little "umph" to an already decadent bite.
Things got event more interesting. A small cup of butternut squash soup had the molecular gastronomy components of a scientist. Wellman wasn't showing off (even though she could as she's worked at Bouchon, Jean-Georges and more) but is balancing a dish. Brown butter, sage, sherry and creme frache brought new dimensions to the rich liquid.
The salad duo of baby beets with truffle fondue (even better than it sounds) and caviar salad showed just how good a salad can be. After surprisingly rich starters the salads were a nice palate refresher. The caviar replaced crutons in a way and gave a new texture and flavor that was a little treat in every bite.
Striped bass seems to be what Wellman keeps getting written up for. Caviar powder delicately coats the white fish as do citrus bread crumbs, capers and a lemon foam.
My favorites of the night were the moscovay ducky breaks with sweet potato puree, pecans, sour cherries and duck jus and the roasted jidori chicken with brussels sprouts, chestnut puree and apple cranberry chutney. This showed Wellman's appreciation for the seasons and the familiar. This dish was an upgraded version of the holiday dishes we all know and love. Wellman hits a high note with these dishes.
Espresso caviar atop a vanilla panna cotta finished us off with a cardamom shortbread cookie and almond meringue. I would have like a slightly more rich dessert, especially after a decadent meal, however, somethings must remain in the French fashion, after all, it is Petrossian!
Eating at Petrossian provides you the luxury to have a very talented chef focusing on you. Ask to meet her, try her creations. You can see the same devotion in her face that you taste in her food.