There are so many things out of the ordinary for Le Turtle, which recently opened in Lower East Side as “new wave” French restaurant. I’m not sure what that exactly means, but then I visit their website and see all these weird videos (including a clip from the excellent movie Ex Machina starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander as a mesmerizing robot). It certainly triggered my interest in visiting this place, even more so when I stepped into the artsy dining space with all servers in jump suits. If there is a place where artists frequent in a futuristic setting, Le Turtle looks like the kind of place that fits the bill. I was hoping that the food would be as good as the creative force behind these surreal settings, and found a lot to like here.
The relatively concise menu at Le Turtle, with the kitchen helmed by the critically acclaimed Brooklyn tasting menu palace Blanca alum Greg Proechel, displays plenty of modern twists on French cuisine. While it would be somewhat of a travesty that bread is charged for $6 at other restaurants, I actually didn’t mind at Le Turtle because the bread is excellent, especially when accompanied by butters with interesting flavor like escargot. Kabocha squash and fresh cheese was a light appetizer that should be on your table to start the meal, too. My favorite dish at Le Turtle was kohlrabi bisque along with lamb belly and smoked cabbage. I absolutely loved the rich, aromatic flavor of the bisque that was so elegant without overpowering your palate. My dining companions and I made a quick work out of this dish, and I secretly wished I had this just for myself.
Some dishes felt a bit pedestrian. Maine lobster, which came with pickled aji Amarillo and Asian pear, felt slightly overcooked, as was the lamb that came with squash and roasted carrot. But then the restaurant made up for it with this insane whole chicken for two that was accompanied by rutabaga and chicory salad. The server brings the entire chicken as a show (I’ve actually seen photos of the chicken with burning flames but unfortunately all the fire died when I saw it, leaving only the ashes and smoke), and then carves it into different pieces. It was an excellent chicken (definitely one of the better ones I’ve had recently) that had juicy, tender meat with moderate seasoning to make sure people enjoy the texture of the dish. Desserts were also delightful without being overly sweet. I enjoyed the simple-looking hazelnut financier with yogurt sorbet and pear puree that was deceptively elegant, and dark chocolate sorbet was also a winner.
As mentioned above, the vibe of the restaurant itself is something to visit Le Turtle for. Getting a restaurant could be a challenge due to the relatively small space and its recent attraction to young, artsy crowds in LES, so make sure to book advance. There is full bar menu, with some nice wine selections (some natural wines sprinkled in between). LES is really experiencing an explosion of good restaurants lately, and Le Turtle certainly fits in that category. I’d love to see how it evolves over time.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 177 Chrystie Street, New York, NY 10002
Telephone: (646) 918-7189