Celebrate Hanukkah the French Way at La Table
It's no surprise to any of us that Kenny & Ziggy's is keeping its faithful well supplied with a variety of latkes, brisket and blue-and-white cookies for Hanukkah this year. All-kosher Genesis Steakhouse & Wine Bar, as expected, was one of the few upscale restaurants in town open on Christmas Day, and has some stellar holiday gift boxes filled with meaty delights. And of course, bakeries like Three Brothers are serving up a raft of sufganiyot to mark the miracle of the oil.
But I was startled to learn that for its second year, La Table's team has made the decision to combine its French fare with Ashkenazi traditions for eight nights of feasting. In fact, with 24 hours notice, the kitchen will even cater to kosher diners with a kashrut prix-fixe. It's served a day past actual Hanukkah this year, since the menu won't be available on New Year's Eve.
On Christmas Eve, I tried the menu upstairs at an elegant Le Château mostly clogged with Yuletide revelers (one large family even sported Christmas crowns). Since I was dining with a group not ordering from the Hanukkah menu, I enjoyed a double bread service—the typical choice of seeded roll or mini baguette, along with a silver bowl filled with gleaming egg-washed challah rolls the size of a child's fist.
It was lucky that the rolls were so airy given what was still to come. The matzoh ball soup arrived in chic fashion with knaidlach, chicken, carrots and celery resting in the shallow bowl. A server poured the broth over the assembled ingredients, steeping them in a hot, rich chicken broth. And the matzoh balls? I wouldn't have known the soft blobs of dough and schmaltz hadn't been crafted by someone's Jewish grandmother.
Entrée options include the heritage chicken for two ($45 per person) that's become a La Table classic, carved tableside for optimal holiday theatricality. I was lucky enough to try the other two items that evening, including a trio of butter-tender lamb chops served with a tangy mesclun salad and espelette-dusted frites. The other was a baseball-sized cube of perfectly braised short rib, served in an inky sea of Port reduction with Brussels sprouts, a glazed onion and a single tiny, delicately tournéed carrot.
Two $10 sides are available—roasted Brussels sprouts and a pair of potato latkes. Once again, that secret Jewish grandmother stashed in the kitchen must have worked her magic. The pancakes were creamy inside and crisp outside, not oily, and served, as they should be, with both apple sauce and sour cream.
At Le Château, the museum-like, glass-covered dessert trolley always beckons. But the special Hanukkah dessert is too ephemeral to survive the rigor of such a wait to be consumed. The chocolate choux is what it sounds like, a delicate puff filled with mousse made from intense 70-percent Valrhona Guanaja chocolate that served as a most elegant spackle for fresh, powdered-sugar-dusted raspberries. The berry also appeared in the form of deeply flavored, smooth sorbet, swirls of coulis and a half berry crowned with edible gold leaf.
All of which left me wondering if La Table and I will have a date for Passover this year. Purim is coming even sooner. La Table? Fancy French hamantaschen, s'il vous plait?