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Friday, June 22, 2012

Next Magazine Review - Triomphe

49 W 44th St (btwn Fifth/Sixth Aves), (212) 453-4233,

Although it may seem a tad presumptuous to name a restaurant Triomphe, the moniker does readily translate to a “triumph” at the hands of chef Jason Tilmann. The room in the Iroquois Hotel is cozy and warmly lit, a classic New York supper club, if perhaps not as grandly outfitted as Tocqueville or the erstwhile Lutece that it might choose to evoke. While being forward-thinking in his preparations, Tilmann definitely has a refined, reverential respect for Manhattan’s vivid history and culinary legacy.

House cocktails filled with Stoli Orange and ginger beckoned. An English Sparkler with Tanqueray gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and Prosecco was especially promising. However, we planted ourselves firmly into some brightly tart Sidecars and bracing martinis.

It was love at first bite when our chicken livers arrived, so plump and perfectly fried over toasted garlic crostini, along with onions braised in sherry with a bare trickle of fruity basil olive oil. A mound of cleanly chopped hamachi tartare was served on a chilled plate with a flowery bouquet of baby mache lettuce while pearls of salmon roe further decorated and endorsed the dish. Scallops on our other fish course were subtly seared and topped with porcini mushrooms. Foie gras butter melted onto the fish and continued to commingle with the surrounding thyme cream sauce, which we were told is made fresh with every order.

The two salads we tried were in turns confounding and illuminating. Overly salty smoked trout argued with other competing flavors such as briny, pickled ramps and a strident grain-mustard vinaigrette. We took solace in the wonderful retro wedge of iceberg lettuce thrown over the top by accommodating portions of lobster; firm, spring-summoning English peas; thyme bacon; blue cheese sauce; tomato dressing and a drizzle of mint coulis.

Chateaubriand was a special, so we stuck our forks right in. The richly red, thickly cut tenderloin of beef with a giggle-inducing béarnaise sauce benefited by a soupcon of mustard was quite extraordinary—one of the best steaks I’ve had in recent memory. A heady whiff of truffles laced the accompanying mashed potatoes while the veal demi-glace got its game on and stiff stalks of jumbo asparagus rounded out the dish.

Surprisingly enough, we didn’t stop there. After all, dessert and fine glasses of nostril-filling Larressingle XO Armagnac awaited. Usually I don’t dally with sweet after-dinner drinks but the Lemon Chiffon with Stoli Vanilla and limoncello and the Caramel Macchiato with Godiva caramel, espresso and vodka were certainly up for consideration. We skipped the cinnamon apples and almond granola mixture listed as the topping for New York cheesecake, shrewdly opting instead for a scoop of delectably icy blueberry sorbet to pair with our creamy, gorgeous snowball. We wanted to kiss our waiter for insisting that we try the chocolate croissant bread pudding with caramel toffee gelato and a judicious pour of warm Crème Anglais on top. How cheering and reassuring to discover that in the stalwart Iroquois, Triomphe is so freshly delivered and fully earns its name.

Prices: Appetizers: $11-$18; Entrées: $31-$40; Alcohol:  beer, wine, full bar, specialty cocktails.
Short Order: Triomphe delivers a classic, New York moment in a comfortable room that all conspires to make for a triumphant evening.
Peter’s Picks: Perfectly fried chicken livers; over-the-top lobster salad; extraordinary Chateaubriand steak; scrumptious chocolate croissant bread pudding.
Peter’s Pans: Competitive smoked trout with pickled ramps; vinegar and grain mustard.

First published in part in Next Magazine.

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