It's been a little over a month since I last visited Ma Peche with a group of food bloggers. I thought the next time I'd be here again would be when the restaurant officially opened next door to the Chambers Hotel on 56th. But when Hagan from Wandering Foodie asked if I would like to come along for a blogger meet-up, I was happy to revisit the temporary set-up in the hotel's mezzanine. Following a morning session of ice skating at Bryant Park, I met up with Karen (Hagan's friend) and Zachery Cohen of Farm to Table.
Hagan and I ordered the banh mi maison,($10) which is a three terrine sandwich, stuffed with pate, pickled daikon and carrots, and topped with cilantro on a well-crisped baguette. After tasting both banh mis on the menu - maison and the banh mi au poulet,($10) which was a house-made lemon grass chicken sausage, I think I may prefer the banh mi maison, albeit marginally, and should note that I also happen to enjoy pate.
Karen ordered the bun du riz,($10) rice noodles with pork ragout and saw leaf herb, which she, and everyone else around the table who took a bite, enjoyed. This entree looked intriguing with a wonderful union of various textures: pillowy soft and silky rice noodles, crispy fried shallots, nibbles of ground pork and fresh herbs which were incorporated with a drizzle of a savory fish sauce dressing. A clear winner on the lunch menu. I didn't get a clear shot of the chicken soup($12) that Zach ordered, which was a small bowl of pho noodles in a clear broth infused with lemon grass and spices. While everyone thought the soup was delicious, it did arrive to the table lukewarm, making the experience slightly disappointing.
Fried brussels sprouts in a fish sauce with herbs. This dish was a bit of a conundrum for everyone around the table. This dish was sold to us when we heard our waitress say, "I don't really like brussels sprouts, but I like these." So it must be a quite a dish to have persuaded a non-brussels-sprouts-lover to the other side, right? Well, not quite. Everyone around the table likes brussels sprouts, and I personally can eat it seven days a week, but we were disappointed when we couldn't detect any brussels sprout flavor. It seemed to have been soaked in a potent layer of fish sauce which effectively cut through that dense cabbage flavor. It's difficult for me to discern whether this is a good dish with mismatched expectations or simply a mediocre one, I haven't decided.
Pork ribs drenched in a what tasted like a sweet honey sauce. Everyone around the table enjoyed biting into the sticky tender pieces of meat, and even into the bone, the white cartilage in the center of each piece was so soft that it felt like hard gelatin which added an interesting contrasting texture. Personally I felt the flavors of this dish was poorly balanced. I would have liked to see the concentrated sweet sauce countered by vinegar or not as sugary.
When the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and milk arrived on the table with a side of spoons because they were that gooey and soft, I felt the warm feelings of gathering around the table with friends after grade school come back to me. Buttery sugar dough enveloping dense bits of chocolate chips, heavenly for decadent dessert lovers, especially for those who love cookie dough.
This is a great place to bring friends who desiring a nice place to lounge and a small meal. I'd be interested in experiencing Ma Peche when it is up and running next door. Expected date is sometime in February. In the meantime, you can listen to the clanking of hammers and drills downstairs.
If any of you are in town and interested in meeting up for coffee or lunch, let me know. It's always great to be able to extend the circle of food of loving friends.
Ma Peche at the Chambers Hotel15 W 56th Street (b/n 5th and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10019
Lunch hours: 11am - 3pm.