You Say French, I Say Venezuelan: Dinners at Le Quinze and Flor’s Kitchen

Over the past several days I’ve eaten two significant dinners. Which isn’t to say I only ate two dinners. It’s just that the others were insignificant. Last night, for example. What did I eat last night? Oh yes–I ate a burrito at Burritoville. It was insignificant. I had sushi the night of our party. It was insignificant.

But Saturday, I went with Lauren and Adele to a French bistro I discovered via the internet. I was thinking, in fact, that very night of discussing the way the internet has informed where and how we eat. All this access to so much information about food makes it almost unforgivable to eat boring meals at Cheesecake Factories and Olive Gardens. We must google “french bistro” and see what surfaces. Or, in my case, go to NY Metro (New York Magazine’s website) and explore the food section. It was there I discovered Le Quinze.

Le Quinze is difficult to say. Lauren tried to teach me, to no avail. (And those rooting for my taking French lessons, I think that ship may have sailed. The only class I could find met twice a week during times I have regular school. Merde!) Anyway, for those not in the know: Le Quinze means “15.” Why 15? Beacuse it’s the team name of Le Quinze’s chef/owner’s rugby team. Yes, he plays rugby and cooks. His name is Bernard Liberatore.

I love the atmosphere at Le Quinze. It is so uber-casual you wouldn’t even believe you were in a French bistro. The decor borders on something you might find at a strip mall. Pictures of rugby players in action are painted on the walls. There are trophies and jerseys and TV monitors with rugby matches playing. Waiters and waitresses are casual too. And the clients are casual. The place is small. Next to us was a table of 4 with a baby. Across the way a bunch of girls were celebrating a birthday. Le Quinze was cozy, or should I say Quozy.

Now for the food. Lauren and I shared a half a carafe of wine for a crazy reasonable price. It was a Bordeaux and had a really rich, really nice flavor.

For starters, I had the Frisee aux Lardons et Son Oeuf PocheĀ (which translates to: Frisee salad, bacon & poached egg.)

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I really enjoyed this salad. The bacon was fancier than your normal bacon—thicker, meatier. The salad was subtly dressed but had a kick. And the egg was great fun—once it broke, the yolk made the salad creamy. Again, I really enjoyed it.

But not nearly as much as Lauren and Adele enjoyed their appetizers. Lauren had escargot and it was indeed delicious. (There are no pictures because taking pictures of their food would violate my “don’t take pictures of other people’s food” policy. Reason being—there’s not enough space for all those pictures!) Adele had oxtail ravioli with mushrooms and truffle oil and she was the most swoony. Appetizers were great.

But the entrees. Oh, Le Quinze–I’m sorry to report, your steak frittes (which we all ordered) left us all a bit disappointed.

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The fries were good–great even. So was the salad. It was the meat–which was buttery and flavorful–but barely cooked! I mean, I ordered it medium rare—but it was cold and chewy chewy chewy. Lauren ordered hers medium and barely ate it. We all yelled “merde!” at the steak.

But things were somewhat redeemed with dessert. Our waitress told us a very interesting thing about coffee vs. espresso after dinner which is so interesting I am going to post a separate post about it. We all shared a tarte tatin:

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It was majorly tasty. And by the end I was still feeling good about our meal. I really liked Le Quinze. I want to go back. I am going to go back.

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Now we move to Venezuela. Tonight I had a rehearsal for a scene that’s going up in play lab—it’s an adaptation of a Philip Roth story I worked on in my Adaptation class. Ben’s in it. So afterwards me, he, John and Judith our director all decided to go to dinner. “Where should we go?” they asked. John said, “Let’s ask the Amateur Gourmet.” I’m always put on the spot like a big-know-it-all.

Well I knew we were near Flor’s Kitchen. And I like Flor’s Kitchen. I’ve been there before.

“Let’s go to Flor’s Kitchen!” I said. And off we went.

So then, Flor’s Kitchen. We went to the one on Waverly near Christopher. There’s another, apparently, in the East Village. Ours had a lovely interior with exposed brick and maroon walls and flowers and candles and other atmospheric devices. We ordered appetizers and entrees, stuck with water, and then waited a while—more than normal, but not so long as to be outrageous.

Our first appetizer was taquetos? I put a question mark there because I’m 43% sure it was taquetos, but maybe I’m hallucinating that. Here’s John with his question mark taquetos:

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They were ok—like fried mozzarella sticks without the mozzarella and some other kind of cheese in its place.

The better appetizer and a culinary first for me (a big one, I think, since these are biggies in the ethnic food world) was our arrepas. Here’s Ben with the arrepas:

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They are kind of corn pancake thingies with cheese on top. These (and I’m not sure if this is true of all arrepas or just the ones we had) had a certain anis flavor–perhaps due to what looked like anis seeds in the arrepas themselves. (Do you like how well-researched I am in my food reviews? Imagine if I were Frank Bruni: “The third course at Masa was a, ummm, fishy pink object on top of what I think was rice but I’m not sure.”)

Anyway, arrepas were fun—I like them. I am going to add them to my diet.

But now the best part–the very best part. Arroz Con Pollo:

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At first, when I received this plate, I thought: “Hey, there’s the arroz–where’s the pollo?”

Then I realized the pollo was in the arroz. And honestly (here we go with hyperbole) this was seriously (seriously) the best Arroz Con Pollo I’ve ever had. It was SO tasty. Normally, when I get Arroz Con Pollo it’s sort of a defeatist thing—I picture a bland, burned chicken breast on a pile of rice. Here, the chicken was crispy and garlicky and moist and the rice was soft and tender and had olives and other good things in it. It even had a smiley face on top.

And plaintains. Can we talk about how good plantains are? I really love plantains. I think this is a side dish we should adopt into our every day lives. They’re bananas, so they have that good-for-you component, but they’re fried so they’re some danger–some excitement. Plaintains–coming to a plate near you. That’s the ad campaign I’ve devised for them. Feel free, Plantain Society, to use that.

And so Flor’s Kitchen was great. We all enjoyed ourselves. I say you should go!

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