Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Montmartre - Tien Ho Returns

A week ago, a few friends and I had dinner at the brand new Chelsea restaurant, Montmartre.  It's taken me a week to write about it, because basically it took me that long to digest all the food we ordered.  That's a bit of a joke; but seriously, we probably ate our way through 70% of the menu, ordering "the whole top half," per one of the attendees, as well as 3 (or was it 4?) of the main courses, all the sides, all the desserts - or, in our lingo, the bottom half of the menu...
Now trust me, I don't normally order (or eat) like this, but when I'm with a bunch of people who are a good deal younger than me (like 90% of the population), going with the flow is easy, even if my digestive juices and taste buds don't think so. It's also why my standing rule is that dinner out with more than 4 people sucks, unless it's for pizza or at a bustling Chinese/Thai place, where tasting everything is part of the fun (I'm looking at you, Congee Village and SriPraPhai) and you'll have trouble spending more than $25 a person.

All that said, the chef and one of the partners at Montmartre is Tien Ho; Well known to food-crazed locals, Tien "made his bones" at Momofuku Ssam Bar, during what some consider its finest hours - in my opinion, Ssam is still damn good, though perhaps not as exciting as it was 4 or 5 or 6 years ago when Tien was at the stove and you were lucky to get in.  Oh by the way, we used to eat the same damn way at Ssam Bar, ordering literally the whole menu and fighting for the last scraps of kimchi laced Fuji apples with fluke, or whatever happened to be on the menu at the time.

Here at Montmartre, Tien has moved toward a more French bistro vein, which is OK in my book as its one of my favorite cuisines (and his too, from reading about him). So there's an excellent brandade and a fine beef tartare with mustardy gaufrettes to liven things up; radishes (a classic bistro snack) get an update, served both raw and cooked along with trout roe and olive smears...
(Oh, the pictures.  It's a new camera and this was my first time using it under weird lighting conditions, so they suck).  We loved the frisee au lardon, a salad loaded with duck confit and topped with a runny duck egg.  And the cassava chips. And the potatoes Gascognaise, because if you don't love fried potatoes over caramelized onions and foies gras, you're nuts. The blanquette de veau was a personal favorite of mine, and the lamb served two ways with lots of Mediterranean flavors - yes.

Were there misses?  Well, sure...there are bound to be when a restaurant is only a few days old; the desserts didn't move me (there's no dedicated pastry chef - yet). I'm not a big fan of snails, and the cavolo nero tarte was fishy with anchovies even by my anchovy loving standards.  And I don't like my $12 glass of white, while waiting at the bar, to be served in a tiny Picardie glass - this isn't Schiller's, I don't think.  Be that as it may, when there's this much food on the table during round two, there was plenty to like...
And when I get to go back with Significant Eater in tow and order just what we want, I'm pretty sure we'll be happy Tien's in the kitchen again.

158 Eighth Avenue, New York City
(646) 596-8838


  1. Let's go! I'm in desperate need of a bistro fix.

  2. Mitch, looks like more bistros for 2013. You think a few less Italian?

  3. @Jeff - yes, any time.

    @Ed - More French AND more Italiano!