A Star-studded 100th Anniversary

The moment I read about Benoit’s special, one-night-only, 100th Anniversary Dinner, my hand immediately shot for the phone and my fingers dialed the number for reservations.  Between the three guest chefs, Michael Anthony, Michael White, and April Bloomfield, they are a 2012 James Beard Winner and share a total of six Michelin stars. When was the last time someone had the opportunity to eat a single dinner prepared by some of the best chefs in NYC? Of course, by the time I called, it was too late and there were no available spots. I put my name down on the waiting list as the only alternative, never expecting to hear back.

Two days before the night of the dinner, I received the most surprising phone call. Benoit had open spots for its special Anniversary Dinner! I could not believe my luck in securing once-in-a-lifetime reservations to such a remarkable dinner.

We started off our dinner with a small plate of light cheese puff pastries. The bite-sized pastries had a soft slightly flaky outside and an airy inside that reminded me of finger food at a bar.

The first dish of the tasting was from Alain Ducasse and Philippe Bertineau, a duck foie gras terrine with toasted parisienne brioche. The terrine was soft, creamy, and only had a little foie gras flavor to it. I would’ve liked the brioche to be toasted more so that it was crunchier to contrast in texture with the terrine. A sweet jam could also be added but the dish just wasn’t as exciting or tasty as we had hoped.

Michael Anthony (props to him for just winning the James Beard award) presented a colorful spring vegetable “pot-au-feu.” The overall presentation with the fleur de sel was very nice and reminded me of a blooming vegetable garden. It tasted very light and refreshing, almost like having a bottle of crisp spring water after being parched. A duck consommé also added a small taste of savory flavor to the dish.

Michael White’s olive oil poached east coast halibut was next on our list. The firm and flaky fish was cooked well on top of the brodetto di crostacei, consisting of clams, shrimp, and octopus. Initially, the dish was a bit salty but the side of  spinach added a taste of freshness to balance it out. I also have to point out that the white wine pairing was spot-on as it elevated the flavors of the fish and dish as a whole.

Our last main course was a larded filet of beef with crispy bone marrow from April Bloomfield. A bit excessive? Nahhhh. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night because of the tender filet with strips of delicious fatty lard hidden inside. To make things better, the crispy bone marrow was bursting with flavor that just melted into your mouth with each bite. The vegetable stuffed lumaconi was a nice attempt to be healthier and balance out the absurd richness from the filet and bone marrow. But if you were ordering this dish at a restaurant, I’d say the vegetables would be optional, you knew what you were getting yourself into. Well done April Bloomfield.

Our final course was a nougat glace dessert from Alain Ducasse and Jerome Husson. There was intense passion fruit flavor on the dish itself and as the top layer of the cake as a sorbet. The nougat middle layer had a creamy taste on top of a final layer of pistachio ice cream. Both layers added nutty flavors and texture to the dessert.

For such a highly anticipated dinner, it was no surprise that the atmosphere was very busy. As a result though, service suffered a little, but there were no big mishaps during our meal. The standout courses were definitely the halibut and filet; and we would order them again if given the chance. It was quite the experience to dine on food from such prestigious chefs. Congratulations on 100 years, Benoit!