March 13, 2014
Perhaps one does not think of fine dining when rotisserie chicken is concerned, but some of my fondest memories of meals in France centered around just that. Rotisserie Georgette brings the warmth of the rotisserie to an upper east side landscape occupied largely by sanitized restaurants devoid of any real depth of character. Time will tell if the universal chicken can cross borders here and bring the world that is NYC together. At present, the clientele hail from east of Central Park and seem glad they are not picking up a chicken from Agata and Valentina.
At the foot of the elongated dining room reminds me of a supper club with hushed tones and relaxed energy. Upon entry, the bar, anchored by sleek stone and wrought iron is ripe but does not beckon. There is no shiny element that would lead you to believe there is any mixology, although I had a fine daiquiri one evening while waiting to be seated as the furs were collected from glossy, eager patrons.
Just focus your attention towards the rear, where the 40 year old Portuguese blue and white tiles that adorn the back of the restaurant covering the kitchen dining room walls suggest a measure of home cooking and Mediterranean style. Georgette Farkas borrowed the tiles from her parents who while traveling in through Iberia, purchased the tiles for their own use, only to have been storing it for many years. Nice touch.
The space looks French, Gascogne in style, with velvet textures and mirrors and hunting items. Certainly the lighting and mood is not arranged for the jet set or downtown crowd. Charlie Bird this is not.
In place of verve and moxy is good old fashioned French hospitality. Dine here often enough and you will be made to feel like this is your spot, your go to bistro for catching up and tearing into poultry with your hands. The staff is friendly and familiar. I have a running joke with them that the next time they will bring me tacos from staff meals. Georgette is omnipresent and can be seen gracefully chatting from table to table in exquisite outfits that only Parisian women can pull off.
A window into the kitchen reveals duck, lamb and poultry turning over open flames, potatoes nestled beneath, benefitting from jus drippings. It is a mouth watering sight to behold, distracting enough to take away from the comfortable environs of French county cooking, a mix of Bordeaux and Bourgogne.
There are classic French flavors threaded throughout the menu, most prevalent in the appetizers such as the consommé de volaille or the cauliflower and Vadouvan curry veloute, soft and elegant notes that are deeply layered in classic French technique and slow cooking. Fois gras terrine will startle no one but belongs on the menu as well as the vibrant pates. A less successful but hearty gnocchi with wild mushrooms resides on the subdued side of the flavor spectrum. Fresh seasonal vegetables abound, such as crisp baby brussel sprouts, winter mushrooms, and Jerusalem artichokes. Naturally augmented by rotisserie potatoes well dripped with jus, or crunchy pommes frites.
Where there is no suspense is in the execution of its namesake. What is going to come out no matter what is a great roast chicken, heralded, succulent and satisfying. The trick is how to build the rest of the meal to accompany the bird.
There are two options for poulet, roti and de luxe, a version which accompanied with wild mushrooms stuffed under the breast and seared foie gras, a bit over kill. Better to keep it simple, provencal herbes and garlic, and let the chicken shine through. In both treatments, the skin is crisp, dark and whit meat moist throughout, satisfaction from essentially coaxed flavors of healthy pasture raised poultry. After an early change of chef, the restaurant is hitting its stride with a roast duck offering too, tender and crispy, doggy bag required.
There is a whole fish and steak option, but why stray from the house specialty at all?
With some advance planning and hungry appetites, a suckling pig or leg of lamb may be ordered, although I feel that whole roasts should be had on picnic tables in the outdoors, rather than a formal setting. There is a private room if you must.
The wine list is concise and leans on the Bordeaux side, with selections from the 1990’s through the early 2000’s. There is a bit more to choose from in the white category such as a substantial Collio Bianco, or exciting Domaine Sigalas from Santorini.
Rotisserie Georgette is not exactly a French place, but a place with French sensibility, jacket optional, designer jeans suggested, and a willingness to roll up the sleeves. For the Upper East Side, a welcome change of pace from old New York.
PPP (Price per Person): $$$