Building a bridge between Mekong and France, two separate worlds and two different cuisines which gather in New-York in a remarkable restaurant. That is the challenge that was taken by Macks Collins and Bryan Kidwell, respectively Chef and Sous-Chef at Rouge et Blanc. They bring forth a solid performance, based on a flavorful and dynamic cuisine, never short of spices but as subtle as the wind.
I already hear you mumbling about all this fusion cuisine that you see everywhere, creating nothing but confusion by means of lemongrass sticks thrown on top of plates or with its fancy foie gras nems. But Rouge et Blanc is different. It’s original, sharp and authentic.
Tom Cregan is the proud owner of this Franco-Vietnamese restaurant but he’s also an exceptionnal sommelier. We’ll tell you more about him in a forthcoming post as his wines stories deserve more than a few lines. In the kitchen, Macks and Bryan are real partners in crime.
We met them a few months only after they took up as Chef and Sous-Chef, to discuss the recent changes to Rouge et Blanc’s cuisine and to taste, or pig out as you prefer, the delicious dishes they prepared in front of us.
Macks et Bryan, the geniuses of Franco-Vietnamense cuisine make of Rouge et Blanc one of the best restaurants we’ve experienced in SoHo so far. Let’s meet these ardent Chefs.
Le Grumeau : What brought you to Rouge et Blanc? (it’s hard to imagine they actually had a life before)
Macks : I graduated from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America, not the shady agency) before working at Foliage, the Mandarin Oriental restaurant in London. Then I came back to the US, I worked here and there in different restaurants before becoming Sous-Chef at Rouge et Blanc.
Bryan : I didn’t do any culinary studies (he must belong to these people who have that in their blood). I actually have a business background as I graduated in business from Virgnia Tech. Once I had my diploma, I realized my real passion was cooking. Then I did several stints in different restaurants in D.C. before moving to New-York and taking up a post at Rouge et Blanc.
Le G : And then Macks got promoted to Chef, congratulations!
M : Yes, it’s been very recent, only a few months now. It was quite a big challenge because the staff in the kitchen has been restrained (the guy is modest as it’s only the two of them inside but they’ve enjoyed a bit of help) and we’ve changed a few things on the menu. Sometimes it’s a bit tough to maintain the pace so we’ve tried to teach some tricks to our kitchenporter. Now he can give us a hand quite often.
Le G : How did you two meet up? I guess you must be on the same page to work in the same space every day.
M : I think it’s a good duo. We’ve improved our skills together and both of us often come up with new things to try.
B : We met here at Rouge et Blanc. It worked up quite quickly, we have the same taste for good food and Sculpin IPA. I couldn’t expect a better partner.
Le G : Almost a couple?
M : (laughs) Actually Byran’s girlfriend often complains I get to see him more than she does. Same goes for me I suppose!
Le G : Back to business, do you often change the menu or do you like to keep the classics?
M : We changed most of the things on the menu when I took over the kitchen. We’d like the menu to keep up with the seasons. I won’t throw as much spices in the plates when the summer comes for instance, and I’m not sure we’ll keep the duck confit when the temperature rises as it’s a real winter dish.
We need to see that with Tom, he’s been very flexible, letting us decide what we wanted to have on the menu, except when we’re a bit too generous with the spices as wine drinkers don’t like that too much.
Le G : What are the biggest hit on your menu so far?
M : People love the duck confit, that’s a reason why it’s a heartbreak to put it off the menu. They also usually like to start off with the beet salad (it comes with fennel and citrus vinaigrette).
We had the chance to taste a few dishes at Rouge et Blanc (after seeing an intense and mouthwatering preparation session).
Cured Arctic Char
Smoked Pickles, Mustard Vinaigrette, Crostini
B : Arctic char is not a very popular fish, but it’s actually amazing. It’s really close to salmon in many respects. We’ve cured it for two hours in a marinade made with soy sauce and some spices. Then, we cut it in thin slices, but just thick enough so one can taste the tender flesh. We put it on top of our homemade pickles and a sort of bearnaise sauce which balances well with our spicy pickles.
This dish is amazing. It’s packed with flavors and very colorful. You get the tenderness of the char and the crunchy pickles. The flavor of the fish is not overwhelmed by the marinade, and the creamy sauce gives a nice aftertaste.
Charred Quail Vinaigrette, Trumpet Mushrooms
B : We’ve put the scallops on the char for a few minutes, not too long so that the inside is not too cooked. Macks made this quail vinaigrette that gives an interesting contrast to the scallops and I’ll add some multicolor cauliflowers which are really delicious. The trumpet mushrooms add a nice kick to the whole dish.
The scallops are perfectly cooked, full with flavors and we liked the nice golden colour on the outside. The vinaigrette gave a fresh touch, and balanced very well with the trumpet mushrooms.
Crispy Broccoli and Kale
Sesame, Ginger, Yuzukosho
Warm Carrot Salad
Oyster Mushroom, Lemon, Winter Greens
Kale has become a regular on most menus in New-York’s restaurants. But we’ve never tasted any dehydrated kale like the one we had at Rouge et Blanc: the texture was really surprising, almost crispy.
The other salads are also amazing. My pal loved the warm carrots salad, the carrots were not overcooked so they were just crunchy enough. It contrasted well with the fresh salad.
If you haven’t been there yet, a diner at Rouge et Blanc in SoHo is highly recommended soon. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you opt for the kale salad or the incredible cured arctic char.