Situated between the boutiques nestled in former warehouses and the lofty gardens of Highline Park, a French-American restaurant has inhabited the former Los Dados location of Gansevoort and Washingtion, posing the query: what’s wrong with something classic once in awhile?
I recently visited MPD on a Tuesday night, hidden away in the shadow of the imposing Standard Hotel. While the nearby Villa Pacri was a barren wasteland, as expected in the beginning of the week, MPD was brim-ful of businessmen and, to be frank, eye candy everywhere. Along one wall sat a party from Moet Chandon, and a steady stream of clientele kept the numerous servers busy well into 11pm.
July was bearing down on the two of us crackling dry, so we deferred the outdoor seating for the cooler interior, just before the bar. Never mind al fresco; the floor-to-ceiling windows offered a great view of river sunset and the gritty vogue warehouse setting of the meatpacking district. True to form, this aesthetic was carried over into the restaurant with thick metal pillars, accented with plenty of subtle floral patterns and luxurious couch seating. A mix of subdued lighting and ambient club music set the mood, evoking supermodels and apartments with elevators for a front door.
The wine list confirmed my suspicions with a wide range of astronomically priced wines and champanges. Our aforementioned Moet was represented par excellence, as well as Dom Perignon and pretty much every way of getting sloshed one can imagine. I took a peek into the bar well, which was filled with bottles of Jack Daniels and Tanqueray.
MPD’s menu did not fall far from this standard either, with a two hundred dollar caviar item tucked neatly in the corner. However, the other menu items were not so shocking, the most expensive entree being the coute de boeuf, or ribeye steak, at thirty-eight dollars. Other entrees included short rib, chicken, salmon and bass, and one decadent-looking lobster pasta dish with entire lobsters sacrificed for each order. Starters included an apparently very popular tuna tartare, beet salad, and crab cake, amongst other selections. All in all, a very classic French menu complete with a poached-egg frisee salad. My girlfriend ordered the day’s special, a gaspacho with watermelon garnish that was fresh and clean, just right for the heat. Her entree was an aged goat cheese ravioli, with a pine nut sauce that made her gasp at how it could be nutty and creamy at the same time. I ordered the pork confit, which for being such a commonly offered starter was refreshingly new with a pickled salad of onions, cauliflower and currants on a bed of two sauces, one creamy cauliflower and one savory brown. The pickled veg cut through the rich fattiness of the pork, which was just crisped enough to avoid being called greasy. I also had the steak, which came again very old-school with a potato gratin and simply cooked brocolini. Everything was perfectly cooked; my steak was pink in the middle, my brocolini was a verdant green. The only thing we objected to was the thickness of the ravioli, though the order was portioned exactly and was not too filling. We finished off the meal with a sampling of deserts, my favorite being the smoothest raspberry panna cotta I’d ever had. Both the pain perdue, a french-toast confection with caramel apple, and the pineapple upside-down cake were soft and moist, and the fruit tart was again a twist on a classic with a slab of creamy mascarpone meringue atop scintillating berries.
Twist on a classic is the operative phrase at MPD. Our server Brian was well-informed and personable, but beyond him and the hostess the support staff was quiet and unobtrusive. Yea, you read right- support staff. Being a twenty-something living in New York City, I’m used to hole-in-the-wall places with limited serving staff. Here, I had one server bring me the food, one to set the proper silverware, and one with a gargantuan pepper grinder patiently waiting at your elbow. Every so often somebody would pass by and FOLD YOUR NAPKIN. Frankly, it started to make me a little uncomfortable, but by our entree course it all began to fall into place. These days, New York City is all about innovention and creativity, with burger bars, food trucks and gastropubs sprouting up all over the place. We’ve lost sight of the classic fine dining experience. The food was amazing, yes, but dining out was always about people serving you, taking the weight of the everyday off your shoulders for an hour or two. Admittedly, there were drawbacks. The music, for example, was a mix of heart-racing club techno and cloying nineties pop ballads, obviously designed for a specific clientele. In addition, it escalated in volume until by the end of the night the place was like a club. In fact on the weekends one can pass by and see people dancing on the tables. The madness would be an experience in itself, colt-like legs everywhere and sparklers going off seemingly at random.This is definitely a weekday restaurant if you’re going for the food. For whatever motive you choose to visit MPD, however, I can guarantee an authentic meatpacking district good time. What the Ginza group and the Koch brothers have done is bring us a taste of old Europe, and let us know what its like to be royalty, or at least, obscenely rich, for the cost of one fantastic meal.