FR.OG – NYC
July 3, 2007
FR.OG, which stands for France Origine, opened in April with obvious ambitions to become a trendy destination, like Balthazar across the street. Linda and I dined at FR.OG on July 1, 2007 as we liked the concept: the best cuisines of the French Empire: Lebanon, Morocco and Indochina.
We each started with the Prise de Saffran, which we liked a lot. It was a classic Champagne cocktail, with a bit of sugar and bitters, plus saffron threads. With the meal we had a bottle of 2003 Musar Cuvée Rouge from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. I have been enjoying Musar wine from time to time for many years. Despite very difficult conditions, they maintain high standards and manage to export. One wine merchant says:
Chateau Musar has been producing wine in Lebanon since the 1930s, and planted its vineyards in one of the world’s oldest wine-producing regions. While the Musar “Cuvee Rouge” may be similar in color and body to a Pinot Noir, this is a particularly unique red. A blend of Cinsault, Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, it is composed similarly to the winery’s much more expensive Chateau Musar but is suited for immediate drinking. Delicate, earthy undertones accent flavors of raspberry, pomegranate, cherry and cranberries with spicy aromatics. Though engaging on its own, the Musar Cuvee Rouge is a great choice to drink with lamb.
We didn’t have a wine-friendly meal, but the Musar Rouge stood up to the challenge.
The amuse-gueule was a plate of hot, fresh, spicy flatbreads with a dipping sauce of tomato, chickpea, cilantro and harissa, the fiery Moroccan condiment.
Linda’s starter was foie gras sautéed with ginger crust, sesame potato, mango coulis, soy-balsamic sauce. She thought that the foie gras was excellent, but that the potato was surprisingly bland.
My starter was shrimp and vermicelli that was supposed to have been prepared with coconut milk, but which came in an overly spicy soy bath.
Linda went on to the Sautéed pork loin with scallion, corn, bacon and savoy cabbage, caramel-ginger sauce. This was quite nice, but seemed to have nothing to do with FR.OG’s theme, unless you count the period when Iowa was French before Jefferson bought it from Napoleon. (The Iowa state flag is a tricolore due its French heritage.)
My main course was Sautéed boneless duck leg in Pastilla, warm salad of zucchini, jerusalem artichoke and tomato confit, basil julienne. I liked the pastilla, a deep-fried triangular envelope of brick filled with rich duck meat with Moroccan spices: cinnamon, cloves and cardamom, I would guess. On the other hand, the vegetables seemed like a missed opportunity. They were as uninteresting as a zucchini-based dish usually is.
For dessert we shared the dates stuffed with mascarpone. They were served with rum-raisin ice cream, a mound of candied raisins and very nice wedges of cinnamon flavored brick. Good and appropriate.
The décor is vaguely oriental/modern. The bathroom is sensational. The music was terrible when we arrived, but calmed down. There were not many customers on this Sunday night in July, but the overly-attentive waitress assured us that they were full every Friday and Saturday. Our bill, including tax and tip, was just over $200, which isn’t bad for New York. I am glad we tried FR.OG, but we will not rush back. I think their success from now on will depend more on their PR efforts than their kitchen.