Three French expatriates who met while working at LAbsinthe have exported their combined talents to this side of the river for their new venture in Astoria, Restaurant Seven One Eight.
The warm, inviting dining room is suffused with peachy tones. Votive candles supported by glass brackets attached to the bar mirror amplify their flickering light while giving it a suspended-in-mid-air illusion. The overall impression is very 212 until you scan the menu, and are relieved that the prices are very 718.
The offerings mainly reflect the French origins of the owners, blended with a Spanish influence that reflects time served at Suba, a with it Spanish place located in the Inner Borough. They serve dinner and tapas daily, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
First lets consider the tapas. The origin of the Spanish word La Tapa derives from the custom of placing a slice of ham or cheese on top of the wine glass to keep flies out. The custom has evolved quite a bit since then, but at is core is a tasty snack to be consumed with wine.
You can nibble on some traditional tapas like marinated black and green olives with lemon, fried calamari with avocado lime sauce, or chicken and chorizo skewers. Or, as a nod to their location in Multi-Culti Land, you can try tzatziki with endive.
Tarte flambé, an absolutely divine nosh, bespeaks the Alsatian origins of partner Alain Allaire. Also called flammekueche by German speaking Alsatians, it takes designer pizza to a new level. Its crust is the thinnest, crispiest imaginable. Three toppings are offered. The classic, which is the one most synonymous Alsace, is topped with onion and bacon. The tuna tarte flambé supports blue fin tuna and wasabi mustard. We tried the vegetable tarte flambe, which included roasted eggplant, zucchini and goat cheese. The flavors and textures complemented each other perfectly.
We moved on to the dinner menu. My guest and I ordered grilled calamari, one of the daily specials. It arrived grilled to perfection on bed of mesclun, with a dice of asparagus, corn and mango. The calamari was especially fresh and tender, and the combination of flavors was interesting and tasty. We also had a mixed green salad with Granny Smith apple and toasted almonds in a yogurt dressing. It was quite acceptable if not as inspired as some of the other offerings. We spotted grilled zucchini, eggplant and goat cheese terrine on the list. These were the toppings we enjoyed so much on the tarte flambe. They would probably make an equally excellent terrine.
Already rather well sated by our previous courses, we moved on to the entrees. We chose the striped bass special, and the roasted duck breast from the regular menu. The striped bass was pan-seared and served with butternut squash and spinach in a reduction of red wine. It was an expertly prepared and a thoroughly enjoyable dish.
We adored the roasted duck breast. It was served with diced white and sweet potatoes sautéed with Serrano ham. The duck breast was roasted to perfection, rare in the middle as ordered, resembling a wonderfully tender piece of beef. It was served in a complex citrus coriander sauce. Our only minor criticism is that it could have used a green vegetable to round out the combination of flavors.
To say the service, under the watchful eye of Manager/Owner Guillaume Magnani, was solicitous would be an understatement. When I left food on my plate, as is inevitable when sampling enough dishes for a review, more than one server asked, with great concern, Did you like it? I wondered if they had been possessed by the spirit of my late mother.
We completed our meal with two of Pastry Chef/Owner Raphael Sutters wonderful desserts. As a confirmed chocoholic, I couldnt pass up an opportunity for molten chocolate cake with pistachio ice cream. It fed my habit superbly.
The gratin au mango was so light and delicious, the only word that comes to mind is more. It is made of pastry cream in which fresh mango has been substituted for the milk, and egg white has been added for lightness.
Outstanding Spanish-influenced French bistro fare and tapas in a 212 atmosphere with 718 prices.
Cuisine: French Bistro with Spanish tapas
Setting: Stylish and sophisticated
Hours: Tapas and D 7 days, Brunch Wknds
Reservations: Recommended on weekends
Dress: Informal to dressy
Children: No menu
Credit cards: Yes
Noise level: Acceptable
Handicap accessible: Yes
Chicken and Chorizo Skewers, Basil Sauce...$5
Tzatziki with Endive (Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Dip)...$5
Tarte Flambe, (thin crust individual pizza with choice of onion/bacon, tuna/wasabi, or vegetable topping)...$7-10
Grilled Calamari (Special)...$8
Grilled Zucchini Eggplant and Goat Cheese Terrine with Roasted Pepper Sauce...$7
Warm Duck Terrine with pineapple, balsamic vinegar reduction...$8
Grilled Striped Bass (Special)...$19
Roasted Duck Breast...$17
Warm Molten Chocolate Cake...$5
Gratin au Mango...$5
©2004 Community News Group
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