Raoul’s

by Susan on December 10, 2008

[Food:3.5/5]

During the four years my husband and I lived in Seattle, we had under a dozen visitors; that’s one visitor every four months. Here in New York City, we’ve had too many to count. They come to the Big Apples in droves.

Rest assured, not every visitor stays with us. But regardless of where they lay their sightseeing eyes or business minds to rest, there is usually at least one night when we’re in charge of satiating their palates.

Selecting and recommending New York City restaurants is an art form. The options are endless and each restaurant has distinct personality traits. There’s the cuisine, the cost, and the location – just to name a few.

I take this work seriously and spend a lot of time matching up specific culinary tastes and desires to a fitting restaurant. Sometimes I push people in a direction that they might not have picked on their own. I love it when people simply say, “surprise me”. It’s not unlike a dating service.

I know, I know. Where I am going with all of this? I’m going to Raoul’s.

Raoul’s has been on Prince Street in SoHo since the 1970s. That’s thirty years before SoHo hit the primetime. It was before Chanel and Prada took up residence. Before the rents and hotel rates skyrocketed. Before other restaurants arrived because it was trendy.

To know this history is to fully appreciate the genuine feel that Raoul’s exudes both through its food and atmosphere. Sure, models and businessmen have replaced starving artists, but that just shows how Raoul’s has grown with the neighborhood. It’s one of those restaurants that has stayed relevant and grounded, its roots deeply embedded.

Raoul’s has become one of our go-tos when we want to take NYC visitors somewhere to eat in our neighborhood. It’s got all the right ingredients to make a fun and delicious evening.

Raoul’s is unpretentious, old-school, but with just a dash of cool and newness. Take for instance, the Butternut Risotto appetizer with escargot and matsutake ragout. Orange squash and creamy rice provide the canvas for dark and chewy snails. It’s not passé; it’s almost edgy. It’s a standout dish, but Raoul’s doesn’t make a fuss about it.

Raoul’s bistro French is accessible to the masses, but flavorful enough for more discerning taste buds. Their self-touted specialty is the Steak Au Poivre entrée and it deserves its reputation. The peppercorn to meat ratio lets you enjoy the tender beef with just the right amount of kick. They fry their fries in duck fat.

Spindly frissee and tart cornichons are ideal tag-alongs for Steak Tartare.

I’ve also enjoyed almost every fish on the menu – Scallops, Wild Striped Bass, and most recently, the Bronzini. Each one is served with dueling palate pleasers of texture and taste that enhance, but never overwhelm. Their preparations are so right it’s easy to take them for granted.

It’s only when Raoul’s drifts from its center, away from its core, that things get thrown off balance.

A too prim presentation of pears with blue cheese and walnut dressing strayed from bistro fare into finicky-land.

The Wagyu Shortrib, a dish that sounded too tremendous to pass up, was missing depth of flavor and wagyu’s signature melt-in-your mouth texture.

But those dishes are two of the exceptions. Raoul’s regularly hits the mark, dish after dish. Raoul’s isn’t groundbreaking; its success rises from a solid identity that, for decades, many restaurants have unsuccessfully tried to create.

Raoul’s
http://www.raouls.com
180 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012
212.966.3518

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