According to good ol’ Miriam-Webster, something piquant is “agreeably stimulating to the palate; especially spicy.”
If that’s the case, Piquant, a newish upscale southwestern spot on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, is certainly aptly named.
Last night, six of us ventured to Piquant for a more official birthday dinner than Brian and I’s Sunday night Mexican feast (anyone noticing a culinary preference here?).
First off, I have to give Piquant major props on both ambience and service. Even though the food itself is more on the upscale side, no one was out of place showing up in whatever they had just rushed through their hectic day in, be it t-shirts, suits or frizzy hair. And these people treated me like a princess! While it was pretty empty, they made sure to give us a great table in the middle of the restaurant and constantly remind me how special I was by referring to me as the “birthday girl.”
The big wow factor though? When Brian called to see if they did anything special for birthdays, the chef himself called Brian to discuss what kind of custom, special treat he could whip up to tantalize my taste buds. The resulting orange tart topped with pine nuts was delicious! My only complaint was that they served it to me after I had absolutely no room left for even the most tantalizing of tarts.
Now onto the food, between the six of us, we ordered quite the variety of stuff – this menu is the kind where you sit down and immediately are bombarded by hundreds of things you MUST try. The good part, however, is that the “First Course” section of the menu is comprised of lots of smaller bites like tacos and sliders that you can easily mix and match, and are encouraged to do so.
The stars of the night were the several varieties of sliders – beef, crab cake, bison and pulled pork. About half our party ordered these and they were all devoured almost immediately. They were good-sized and fairly priced at $4 for one or $7 for two (though Lauren was surprised by how spicy they were). Another big hit was the Roasted Corn Chowder, which packs a lot of creamy flavor as well as heartiness from the chunks of potato. And let us not forget the calamari, which came in a cute little cone with a heavenly chipotle aioli (Pommes Frites, are you listening? You need to steal this recipe!)
Craig also sincerely enjoyed his filet mignon – the big ticket item – which came in a simple butter sauce with sweet potato gratin that even ever-picky Craig gobbled up.
Now onto the so-so items: Surprisingly, Piquant appears to be one of those many restaurants that adds vegetarian items to the menu as an afterthought. Considering the important role veggies play in Southwestern and Mexican cooking, this is truly a shame. There were so very many flavorful items that could have been on the menu besides just roast vegetables in taco, salad or entrée form.
We ordered the Roast Vegetable Salad with goat cheese croutons and the Grilled Vegetable Tacos with black bean sauce. I’ll admit that my first issue with each is a personal prejudice – cold roast veggies are something I’ve just never understood. That said, the salad was fine tasting, but pretty thoughtless overall, marinated for not long enough in a very basic vinaigrette for an effect that was overall just plain boring (not to mention, difficult to eat. The veggies were WAY too big). That upside is that the leftovers were actually pretty good – after the veggies had some more time to marinate they had much more flavor.
As for the tacos, the black bean sauce was excellent, but the roasted veggies were the exact same boring roast veggies in smaller bites, topped with some guacamole as an afterthought.
Even with the two disappointments, however, this place is definitely worth a go. It was the perfect place for a special dinner, but it would be just as perfect for a regular weeknight bite out.