Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tuesdays with Market

Place Pigalle is the kind of place you go to celebrate or impress someone. It's classy, from the beautiful polished wood bar, to the black and white checkered floor, to the linens on the tables. And the view! There is nothing so pleasant as snagging a window table for a sunny, quiet, Tuesday lunch, watching the ferries and sailboats glide by and feeling that all is right with the world.
As often happens, I came here by accident. My parents were in town to see me get sworn into the Washington bar and wanted to go out for a celebratory lunch. I knew they'd want a place with a view, but I was expecting to take them for Lowell's rolls or all-day breakfast at the Athenian. So when my mother suggested this little French place they'd discovered behind the fish sellers while awaiting my arrival by Rachel the pig, I was glad I'd arrived a little late.
We'd been dying to try Place Pigalle, but it's a bit out of our typical Tuesdays with Market price range. The menu promises fresh, local ingredients and innovative (if not necessarily French) preparations. We were not disappointed. Given the number of delicious options on the menu and the festive mood, we decided to go all out, and polished off 3 courses and a nice bottle of Sancerre. My father, never one to pass up crab, ordered the chilled Dungeness served in its shell with herbed mayonnaise and cocktail sauce. The portion was bountiful, fresh, and messy. And my father, sheathed in protective bib, clearly enjoyed every last morsel. My mother got the soup of the day, a nice tomato and mushroom, well-seasoned, but nothing fancy. I had the roasted beet salad, which was perfect in its contrasts: bloody red sweet beets, slightly bitter spicy arugula, and creamy goat cheese, in a lemony mustard vinaigrette. I had heard that you have to have the fish at Place Pigalle, so I ordered the halibut in coconut broth, and urged my father to get the copper river salmon special. Both were delicious, but in retrospect, I'm not sure that the Asian style fish really went with the French wine, and the excessive use of cilantro stems marred the presentation without really enhancing the flavor, which was almost too delicate. A little more spice and a little less crunchy green garnish would have improved
the dish. Place Pigalle may be known for its fish, but my mother's spiced duck salad was probably one of the best entrees on the menu. Despite its Asian preparation and citrus and soy vinaigrette, it screamed French bistro, the wilted greens pairing perfectly with the rich, tender duck. We split the three desserts on the menu: a silky chocolate pot de creme, a classic creme brulee, and a dried-apricot-rehydrated-in-brandy tart served with a small pitcher of cream. Watching the sailboats, while licking the last bits of chocolate and custard from our spoons and sipping coffee, was the perfect end to a perfect celebratory lunch.

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