When I pulled up to the busy thoroughfare of 8th Ave and 18th in Chelsea, I have to admit I was not excited to be there. To me, the few blocks north of my workplace represent quick service chain restaurants, pizza shops, and my cheap manicure salon -– not stand out cuisine. And while the Montmartre space itself is narrow, the bar is not very spacious (like all Joseph Leonard team restaurants), and it’s not a spot for those hard of hearing (I was yelling for most of the dinner), the food was some of the best I’ve had in a while at a new NYC restaurant.
We started with the chicken liver, which came generously spread atop a thick piece of country bread. The liver mousse was just the right texture – not too smooth, just enough roughness to make it interesting. The white asparagus salad totally reminded me of something that would come out of SPQR in SF, and came as one thick poached asparagus on top of a delicious puree topped with salty crispy ham. I’m usually skeptical to order raw fish when I’m trying to branch out, but the Hamachi here is unique in preparation and flavor – thick slices wrapped around a tartar topped with diced apple and a delicate vinaigrette.
There was a ton on the menu I would have loved to try for my main course, but I chose the smoked and roasted chicken because it sounded so intriguing with such a bare bones description. It may have been one of the most interesting chicken dishes I’ve had. And, the kitchen was even nice enough to plate a half order of the ricotta gnocchi with morels and hazelnuts that I just couldn’t resist, which ended up tasting like little clouds of heaven.
This place is very reminiscent of some of the inventive ingredient-focused restaurants that cover San Francisco (SPQR, Heirloom, Rich Table), and I absolutely love it. It could actually be one of my favorites for unique food in a familiar setting. So maybe middle of Chelsea isn’t so bad afterall. And maybe, since it’s not in the haven of wonder that is the West Village, it will be more amenable to walk-ins.
Location: 158 Eighth Ave., nr. W. 18th St
Website: (which I love)