The wine list is short, pricy, and fairly interesting. They were out of my first choice, a bottle of Terrazas malbec from Argentina ($32), so the waiter suggested a French wine from the Cahors region, Château du Cèdre Héritage 2005 ($36). This is in fact 90 percent malbec, but I remembered “the black wine of Cahors” as much more tannic and less aromatic than the Argentine malbecs. Not anymore, apparently, as Château du Cèdre now delivers a Robert Parker–worthy fruit bomb at 13 percent alcohol with some vanilla oak in the background. This bottle made sense of the wine writer’s oxymoron, “soft tannins.”
Michelena is doing his own desserts, and he’s a surprisingly precise and visual dessert chef for a fusion guy. What he doesn’t get is power chocolate. So something like the magic cube ($8) has white and dark chocolate mousse encased in a thin chocolate shell with a wonderful cube shape, but the tastiest thing is the sauce with sour cherries and a couple of sweet ones for contrast. His best dessert was an apple crisp ($8) served as neatly as a tart in a round shell, with superior vanilla gelato and plenty of apple flavor. Profiteroles ($8) were puffs of pastry stuffed with the same ice cream. Not too interesting.
Service in the empty restaurant was excellent. There’s no reason to think it wouldn’t work with more customers. The rooms are modern and stylish, candlelit, and probably not too noisy even when full. This restaurant deserves better, and perhaps gets it at lunch. Michelena has done a variety of things, but has yet to realize his stated ambition of being a chef at a mostly-Asian restaurant. Since the conventional-bistro route isn’t a big hit at Central 37, why not give that dream a spin?
Robert Nadeau can be reached at RobtNadeau@aol.com.