Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Claudine Eatery & Wine Bar

Claudine is a French "Eatery & Wine Bar", located on the adorable Claude Lane near Union Square.  Open for lunch and dinner, and Happy Hour in-between.

Claudine is a small casual restaurant.  Inside there are only a few tables, plus a bar and counter seats along a window overlooking the lane, but outside there is a tented patio on Claude Lane itself.

I dined in the stunning horseshoe shaped bar area, which had a great ambiance.  The bar area is located right at the front of the restaurant, surrounded by big, open windows.  It was light and airy, and didn't feel at all cramped, even though the restaurant as a whole is quite small.  The horseshoe shape was unique, and made for a more intimate setting, as it was easy to talk with the other bar patrons.

Service was friendly and efficient, and they even accept PayPal as a payment technique.  Unlike many other places that use the PayPal app, it doesn't work by you just checking in.  Instead, when the bill arrives, there is a section on paying with PayPal, with a unique code.  You then type that into the PayPal app, it brings up your itemized bill, where you can add tip, split the bill with others, and complete the payment.  While not quite as seamless as the checking-in version, it makes a lot more sense for a real sit down restaurant, so you can handle the tip and everything without needing to visit a register.  Like most of my PayPal adventures, it was really easy to pay this way, and I greatly prefer it to any other mobile method I've tried.
Crème brûlée: Vanilla custard, caramelized brown sugar, raspberries.  $8.
It is no secret that I eat a lot of desserts.  I obviously have a serious sweet tooth.  And in many cases, I'm not the most discerning when it comes to desserts.  Sure, I have preferences of course, but when it comes to desserts, my extreme pickiness just goes out the door.  Jell-o mold mixed with Cool whip?  Sure!

There is one dessert that I love more than most, in concept at least, yet so often dislike when I actually have it: crème brûlée.  I love it so much that my blog has a label for it.  I love it so much, when done "right", that I'm still willing to order it whenever it is on the menu, even though I'm pretty sure I'll be met with disappointment.  My expectations and requirements for it are extreme, and I know it, but, I want it a very particular way.

I was at Claudine because they are known for the crème brûlée.  The Yelpers all say it is great.  But ... when is the last time I trusted the Yelpers?  I still went for it.

And ... Claudine nailed it.  Seriously nailed it.  They hit every element of what defines the "right" way to execute a crème brûlée, at least in my mind.

First, the "tap test".  You know, when you take your spoon and tap on the surface of the crème brûlée.  It shouldn't just go right through, like the one from Amber Dhara, or the ones I've tried from the namesake Crème Brûlée Cart.  But it also shouldn't be a pain to crack through with every bite.

I tapped ... perfect.  Thick enough to provide a real deep caramelized flavor with every bite, but not burnt tasting.  The top layer passed my test on both thickness and flavor.  Since it was served in a wider, more shallow dish rather than a standard crème brûlée ramekin, this also provided more top surface area, so there were even more bits of caramelized goodness than usual.  Very well done.

Next, the temperature.  It should be hot on top, showing that it was just freshly brûléed to order.  But the lower level should be cool.  I love that contrast of hot and cold in the same bite.  I can't stand it when crème brûlée has been torched in advance, and the whole thing is cold when served.  Claudine's version passed here as well.

And finally, the custard itself.  Not too thick, not too thin.  Not watery like the one from Pläj nor too thick and quiche-y like the one from Alexander's Steakhouse.  It was a simple vanilla crème brûlée, nothing fancy like the eggnog version from Home Hill Inn, or the total failure of a foie gras version from The Village Pub.  Simple yes, but the vanilla flavor was intense, and there were visible flecks of vanilla bean throughout.  You don't need to mix it up with other flavors when the base is this good.

For garnish, there were three raspberries, which added to the presentation, but I didn't really need.  Simplicity again, no need to re-imagine it like the "crème brûlée" from Fifth Floor, or the Mandarin Dreamsicle Brûlée from Boulevard, that came with a foam on top, and an ice cream sandwich on the side.

This was crème brûlée perfection.  I'd call it "textbook", and I mean that as a ultimate compliment, as it exemplifies how crème brûlée should be done.

The portion size would be fine for sharing with one other person after a meal, or, in my case, devouring myself as a mid-day treat.  It would go great with a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, as an anytime snack.  The $8 price tag was totally reasonable.

I'll be back for this.  And if you like crème brûlée, you should stop playing on the internet, and go now too!
Claudine on Urbanspoon
Related Posts with Thumbnails