The art and science of bistronomy are perfected at Roots, one of the year's best restaurants.
This fresh, ambitious spot upends and refines the bistro idea, French and otherwise, then turns on the electricity. The result: contemporary, creative, irresistible.
Roots Bistro Gourmand, its full unwieldy name, is the work of co-owners Philippe Corbet and James Robert Orlandi, of the departed O's Food and Wine Bar in St. James. Corbet is executive chef; Orlandi, general manager.
They've transformed the old Parkwood Cafe site into a lively, witty laboratory, down to the schematics of desserts on blackboards. Tin ceiling, zinc bar, reclaimed wood flooring -- it looks the nouveau bistro part, too.
Sip a cocktail. Bourbon-fueled "Fred & Ginger Moves," Fig vodka-driven "Laws of Motion," "St. Germain des Pres," with grapefruit vodka, a hint of elderflower, Aperol and orange bitters.
Then, consider the savory poached egg on creamy polenta, with Bayonne ham, aged Gouda and a Parmesan-mascarpone reduction. Or go whole hog with pressed suckling pig, a slowly cooked wonder finished with caraway-lavender honey and caramelized heart of palm.
Corbet's ravioli with English peas, fava beans, crisp confit of lamb and Espelette pepper, in a coconut-mint velouté, has a lot going on, all harmoniously. His "risotto lollipop" with raclette cheese and lemon beurre blanc also will introduce you to the whimsy of "cherry tomato dust." The richness of roasted marrow bone is cut by house-pickled vegetables and an herb salad.
And the chef's "lentille du Puy," a vinaigrette-sparked union that adds peppers, shallots, cherry tomato, celery, chives and crumbled blue cheese to the lentils, will make you think he's celebrating the Jackson Pollock centenary.
Butter-poached lobster, with a citrus-beurre blanc and lobster-bisque emulsion, proves too much can do just fine. Corbet's fragrant spin on bouillabaisse, with striped bass, monkfish and shellfish, may not transport you to Marseilles, but the saffron broth and rouille head the right way.
Plump mussels and hand-cut fries detour to Belgium. Pan-roasted duck breast, with honey-lavender jus, parsley-root puree, caramelized baby vegetables and roasted potatoes delectably stays on Long Island. Roots favors local produce, listing the farms it supports on one of the blackboards.
The boards also will guide you to the sharp, trio-of-chocolate finale and the clever "pop rock" with coconut ice cream, macerated strawberries and mint wafers that do make noise. "Honey toast" with brioche, honey ice cream, peaches and a "crème brûlée center" seduces on cue.
So does Roots Bistro Gourmand.