A Side-by-Side Comparison of Parsnip Steaks


For this week’s review, I found myself stumped by some of the very pretty food at Rosette (171 East Broadway, 212-933-1176). Given that it’s one of the swankier rooms in that gray area where Chinatown meets the Lower East Side, it’s possible to have a fine evening at the marble bar sipping Warren Hode’s cocktails with chef Nick Curtin’s small plates like sweet, smoky chicken wings and seared steak tartare with crunchy potato garlic granola.

But there was one dish that was disappointing not only in its execution, but also because it reminded me of a similar dish that I’d been served (and enjoyed immensely) last year during a meal at agricultural wonderland Blue Hill Stone Barns (630 Bedford Road, Sleepy Hollow; 914-366-9600).

At Rosette, Curtin roasts a whole parsnip in the embers of his kitchen’s wood-fired oven and serves it with hazelnut butter and creamy mashed potatoes mixed with arugula. Presenting the burly root vegetable as faux-beef is a wonderful conceit, but perhaps because of its short time under the flames and an aggressive hand with the nut butter, what I tried at Rosette didn’t gel.

The folks at Blue Hill Stone Barns, on the other hand, took things to the extreme: the parsnip was rolled to our booth on a massive wooden cart, delicately carved, and prepared tableside with accompaniments of bordelaise sauce, bone marrow, and creamed spinach. Even in a restaurant that would easily earn a Michelin star or three, the whole pomp and circumstance felt a bit affected, doubly-so for a vegetable entrée.

Rosette’s version has the benefit of being vegetarian, but it bears little resemblance in flavor or construction to actual steak, whereas Dan Barber addressed the parsnip’s dearth of beefy flavor by, yes, adding beef. Bordelaise is a red wine and bone marrow-based French sauce, and in this application it perfumed the entire plate with a deep, earthy aroma while imbuing every segment of parsnip with bovine musk. While the dish remains on the menu a year later, they’ve since done away with the tableside presentation and added a fried egg to the mix for extra creaminess and heft.

Vegetable entrees are nothing new, but it’s great to see Curtin and other chefs embracing the trend (a trend of which Dan Barber has arguably been at the forefront) creatively.

Where have you had a great vegetable-focused main course recently? Let us know in the comments.