Le Pain Quotidien
922 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY
Artisan breads, sweet pastries and pantry goods like coffee and jams are what you can expect to find in the burgeoning outlets of this chain of bakeries where one can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner items that are carefully prepared with a health conscious outlook. Organic ingredients are incorporated in many of their menu items, as well this ecological philosophy is apparent in their building design and construction as well – loved the reclaimed wood that permeated the interior, giving it a very welcoming and warm touch despite being smack dab in the middle of a concrete jungle, albeit with Central Park only a few short minutes away.
The Le Pain Quotidien empire has now spread out across the United States (mainly on the east and west coasts) as well as places in western Europe and the Middle East. The Canadian outlets seemingly only sprouting up in the Toronto area. I imagine it would be a good fit in the Vancouver area as well given the local climate and penchant for things with a healthy and organic twist.
The early summer in New York can be a harsh and hot time of the year and on this day I was already feeling quite worn down from the beating sun. I needed a refreshing drink to quench my thirst after spending the morning wandering the giant park. Now normally I am not a huge fan of mint, but in the case of this cranberry tea-like concoction, I rather enjoyed it for its fresh properties.
Skimming through the menu options such as the heartier platter dishes, soups and sides, and salads, my eye was drawn to the section labeled ‘tartines’. Not to be mistaken with this famous place out in San Francisco. Salmon, ham, tuna, roast beef, turkey… the list seemed to go one with the varieties, thus making it hard to decide while my patient white shirt/black pants and apron attired waitress waited patiently nearby.
In the end, I was sold by the description of flavors that seemed to come out from the grilled chicken and smoked mozzarella tartine topped with fresh arugula and a basil pesto. Beautifully presented and exposing all of the key ingredients in an array of bright colors, this plate looked almost too good to eat. Much alas, I was hungry and down she went…
Not being a huge bread eating person, I forgot to ask what goes into the type that was in this dish. It had a drier crust while dense, nutty, but not too chewy texture. The smokiness of the cheese came out strongly and worked well with the sliced chicken breast meat. The delicately balanced salad toppings made it slightly challenging to eat while looking composed, but I managed to keep things aligned enough to get it to my open mouth. The pesto was okay, not exceedingly salty thankfully. Portion-wise, it was just right for me.
The place was packed with what seemed to be a mix of locals and visitors. The front counter to purchase stuff to go was also quite harried, and the whole buzz of the place seemed really inviting and full of energy. Seating could be considered a bit cramped as a result of trying to pack so many people inside, but the L-shaped room also did have a communal table for those who come alone. All in all, I liked this chain that is trying to do something fresh and interesting. The seasonal menu items should entice regulars to come back and try new creations as well. Check it out if you ever come across an outlet in your city or your travels and let us know what you think…