La Sirène: Falling for the Siren Song of Butter

March 17, 2016 10:38 am Last Updated: March 17, 2016 10:38 am

If you go to La Sirène, expect to fall for the culinary equivalent to a siren’s song—irresistibly luxurious and rich dishes, tempting to the nose and palate. But unlike Odysseus of the myth, there’s no need for self-restraint.

Roasted escargots and seafood linguini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Roasted escargots and seafood linguini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

This romantic, cozy spot in the West Village is the place to impress a date. And the way to impress is not with a kale salad, but with some polished Gallic decadence—and of course, butter, butter, and more butter.

“Butter is the soul of the kitchen,” said owner and chef Didier Pawlicki, who has an adroit mastery of sauces.

One year, for about two or three weeks, Pawlicki noticed he was getting online reviews that called his food “average.” He couldn’t believe it—average was the last thing anyone would call his food. Either they love it or hate it, but average wasn’t it.

He found out one of his chefs thought he would save the restaurant money by omitting the butter. Ah, mais non, alors!

After that little hiccup, butter was re-enthroned, and has remained.

To start there are the snails, in their big, gorgeous shells. Traditionally they are an excuse to consume an inordinate amount of butter and the ones at La Sirène are no exception. We’re talking about 2 ounces of the golden stuff in each one.

Roasted escargots. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Roasted escargots. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

What is exceptional, though, is that unlike the tough little gastropods so often seen, these Escargots à la Bourguignonne (half a dozen for $13.75) are surprisingly tender. The secret, according to Pawlicki, is to make sure the snails never touch direct heat. Pawlicki experimented for years to get the delicate balance of ingredients in the sauce just right: butter, breadcrumbs, garlic, shallot, and parsley meld together and overflow from the shells. Bread is necessary: you’ll want to mop it up.

The runaway bestseller is the Tournedos Rossini ($34.75), which is just one decadent thing on top of another on top of another: a hunk of melt-in-your mouth foie gras (unseared, as per tradition) luxuriating on top of filet mignon (medium to medium-rare, as per tradition again), in an intensely rich sauce of port wine and truffle, accompanied by a wedge of fried polenta. A plate of vegetables also comes automatically with the entree, like chayote, butternut squash, and cauliflower—just in case you feel you need to be a little more virtuous.

Tournedos Rossini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Tournedos Rossini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

There’s also seared foie gras, served in a balsamic reduction ($25), straight out of the garden of earthly gastronomic delight.

Those who want a taste of the sea instead can’t do wrong by going with the Linguini aux fruits de mer (linguini with seafood, $30.75). A white wine saffron sauce is impossibly fragrant and deeply flavors every strand of the linguini. The scallops, mussels, shrimp, wild Alaskan pollock, and octopus are all delicious and tender.

Seafood linguini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Seafood linguini. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

The wine list features bottles for varied price points, from $32 a bottle all the way to $2,400, for deep pockets—but the majority average around $50.

Decadent starters and entrees deserve a decadent ending. For that there is nothing better than the profiteroles, those airy choux pastries drizzled with housemade hot chocolate sauce (made with Callebaut chocolate) and housemade vanilla ice cream ($13.75).

Profiteroles. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Profiteroles. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

La Sirène
558 Broome St. (near Varick Street)
5 p.m.–10:30 p.m. (for last kitchen order)

Friday & Saturday
Noon–11 p.m. (for last kitchen order)
Closes at 1:30 a.m.

Noon–10 p.m.