Taavo Somer of Freemans and Carlos Quirarte of The Smile opened a new wave French eatery on the Lower East Side just last month. Kendra had the amazing opportunity to dine there and she is giving us the inside scoop on everything Le Turtle.
What is Le Turtle
The space was formerly known as Antonioni’s, a warm and modern Italian restaurant popular with locals. Somer and Quirarte have spun things upside down in the space. They have removed the animal print wallpaper and taken the spaghetti topped with french fries off the menu. They hired Greg Proechel to update French classics. Proechel’s menu highlights vegetables in inventive ways and uses seasonal produce, imported cheeses, and only the best meats to reinvent our favorite French dishes.
I always judge a restaurant by its bread basket. Let’s just say the bread basket here does not disappoint. Holy s**t! A crunchy exterior and a soft steaming interior. How could you not devour the entire basket. The butter selection was equally phenomenal. The house butter is a Normandy butter. Normandy butter is slightly tart but rich and creamy at the same time. While we enjoyed the bread, and contemplated our main courses we sipped a light Riesling. The Riesling wasn’t overly sweet and had a dry and effervescent quality to it.
For a main dish, I ordered the grilled wagyu beef. The Wagyu was cooked to a perfect medium rare and served with Japanese sweet potatoes and onions. The sauce is what brightens the whole dish and awakes the meat. A mixture of parsley, garlic and other herbs added a fresh component to an otherwise heavy meal.
The Sasso Chicken is the must order dish at Le Turtle. The chicken is served family style with grilled greens, sorrel mushrooms, and a pumpkin vinaigrette. The presentation is grand yet rustic. You can immediately smell the sage and other herbs emanating from the plate.
And of course, we needed a side dish. Broccoli Rabe is one of my favorite dishes. The broccoli rabe at Le Turtle is the best I’ve ever had. The bitter rabe is paired with pickled cauliflower, watercress, and fennel labne. Labne is a type of cheese made from kefir. This cheese is slightly salty but almost has the texture of greek yogurt. This component added balance to the dish while the pickled cauliflower awakes the bitter broccoli rabe leaves. Chef Proechel knows how to treat his veggies.
Save The Best For Last
At Le Turtle, the chef saves the best for last. I’m not even a dessert person and I gobbled up every bite of the sweet goodness. We ordered two desserts. No sharing considered here. The presentation was flawless and inviting. The first was a green tea mascarpone ice cream paired with crushed graham cracker cereal. The second was a playful game on carrot cheese cake. The zesty orange and creamy cheese balanced the dish nicely. Both were restrained in sweetness and had an appealing texture that meant you couldn’t resist going back for more. I would go to Le Turtle just to have that green tea ice cream again. Heaven. On. Earth.
Le Turtle, 177 Chrystie St., 646-918-7189