What major things have you accomplished in 12 days? Maybe you were able to bake up your holiday cookies, redecorate a room to your house, or reorganize your closets. Oorrrr, how about opening and redesigning an entire new restaurant? That’s exactly what Rouge Brasserie & Oyster Bar, transforming the space that was Lolita into a brand new swanky hotspot. Fabiana, the designer for cb5 Restaurant Group, made use of some of the design elements of Lolita, while adding her own touches as well as the ideas of Jodi Pennette. Everybody pitched in, including General Manager Diego who hand painted the beautifully ornate mirrors in the back room.
Rouge is sexy, lush, and oozes that certain je ne sais quoi of a French brasserie. The bar is quaint and intimate, while off to the side you have an elevated dining area, a large room with comfortable dining areas, and a large, stunning communal table. We were there as guests for a press dinner and you best believe we were ready to eat. With Executive Chef Josh Moulton (of Union Square Cafe, Gabriele’s, Tavern on the Green, Gramercy Tavern, a CIA grad, and a sommelier at age 24), we were excited to see what was in store.
So let’s start by being honest. Both of us have tried snails before and had bad experiences, so when we saw a plate of Escargots Bourguignon out on the table, we were hesitant to dive in. But being the dedicated food bloggers we are, we took one for the team. The snails were actually quite enjoyable, made rich by loads of savory shallot parsley butter. It was cooked very nicely and wasn’t slimy at all (thank Gawd). The snails were contrasted in texture by a crunchy piece of warm toast underneath. While we might not be snail lovers, it was definitely excellent, so if you’re not afraid, you should definitely order this.
We also had the chance to taste a play on an English favorite, with the Fish Eggs & Chips. Crispy housemade potato chips were fried to perfection and served with a delicate crème fraîche, crumbled egg whites, scallions, and, yes, fish eggs. The crème fraîche added a nice creaminess to the fried flavor of the chips, while the scallions made it all come alive. One of our favorites from the night.
Up next was the Classic Steak Tartare, made with hand cut prime filet. The tartare was fresh, bright, flavorful, and delicate. Adding some crunch to the softness of the beef was a crispy piece of charred country toast. Again, a definite winner.
When the next dish arrived, everybody oohed and ahhed, and why wouldn’t you when you’re faced with a Warm Onion Tart? We are talking about a thin crust flatbread prepared with tomato confit and nicoise olives. The choice of mild gruyere to top it all off was great. This is Chef Moulton’s play on the classic French puff pastry. Amazing.
And, a regular part of the Aquatique portion of the menu is the Plateaux de Fruits de Mer: a massive tiered platter of fresh seafood featuring shrimp, lobster, clams, and both Blue Point and Bras d’Or (Nova Scotia) oysters all ready to go. Everything was extremely fresh, served up cold on ice, and was simply excellent. It’s good to know that Rouge is keeping it local by purchasing their seafood from John Tung at The Lobster Bin, right in Greenwich. When you’re at the restaurant, you can order this as le petite for $45 or le grande for $85 or.
Although we were already almost full at this point, we forged ahead with the “Principale” part of the menu. First up was the Skate Meuniere, made with parsley new potatoes and a lemon brown butter. The skate was an amazing combination of meaty, yet delicate, lemony, and buttery. During the meal Chef Moulton talked to us about skate and explained how it used to be a throwaway fish…no one wanted it. But, this dish is one that no one should throwaway. This was definitely one of our favorites from the night.
Up next we had the Moules Frites with the most massive mussels that you’ve ever seen. That’s because Chef Moulton wouldn’t settle for the tiny, lame PEI mussels. Instead, he sought out John from the Lobster Bin again and found these amazing mussels from Massachusetts. Speaking of the mussels, they were some of the most delicate ones that we’ve ever had, set off with a nice garlicky taste. These paired nicely with the French fries which were crispy on the outside and delicate on the inside. Adding some more flavor and contrast to this dish was an aioli made from Hungarian smoked paprika…a definite nice touch. We plan to order this again when we come back…it was that good.
And, the last of our main dishes was the Short Rib Bourguignon, simmered in red wine with pearl onions and placed on top of truffled mashed potatoes. Like everything else we had that night, the short ribs were cooked perfectly. They were delicate, earthy, and rich… just excellent. The truffled potatoes were nicely seasoned, though our only complaint of the entire meal (that’s a big deal, just one thing) was that they were slightly grainy in texture.
Our feast wrapped up with a Pot de Creme which was rich, yet subdued in terms of sweetness. It was creamy and silky and had just the right balance. This was the end to a meal that we throughly enjoyed from Executive Chef Josh Moulton and crew. After this meal it was clear to us that Josh was one talented chef and that Rouge is destined to be a go-to destination for people looking for some tueur (look it up) French food. Right now they are open from Tuesday through Sunday and plan to be offering brunch soon. You can expect tons of baguette fun, turning your whole brunch experience into an afternoon party. And, even though Rouge is beautiful on the inside, a major reason to go when the weather is nicer is their beautifully charming outdoor patio.
Rouge Brasserie & Oyster Bar
Noms: Based on this meal, 4.5. We can’t wait to revist.
Address: 230 Mill Street
Phone: (203) 813-3555