It's hard to know where to begin when talking about Raclette, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it eight-seat eatery that opened recently on Avenue A. For one, talking about my favorite food—cheese, of course—can be tricky, because I just get so excited about it. And secondly, because this place is so delicious I almost don't want to tell you about it. But I will, dear readers, for not sharing the gospel of molten cheese is a black mark upon my soul as a fromage fanatic.
To begin, we must discuss the most important—but by no means only—thing on the menu: the restaurant's namesake raclettes. To the uninitiated, which is perhaps many of us, the name refers to both a type of Alpine cheese, but more specifically, a method by which the cheese is heated to oozing consistency and then scraped—racler means to scrape, en Francais—onto a plate of other foods. At this East Village restaurant, that means onto piles of potatoes, cornichons, pickled pearled onions and hunks of baguette.
Need convincing? Allow these videos to do the talking...
This girl's face really says it all:
The cheese is melted table side, as you can see, with another round of cheese arriving after you've gobbled up the first. Flavor-wise, the cheese has a nice balance of salinity with just a whiff of aromatic funk to awaken the senses; pair that with the experience of watching the cheese melt into the hills and valleys of the potatoes and it's a fully sensory dining experience for $11.94.
Fig Tartine (via Yelp)
But the raclettes are just a part of the ambitious (for its size) menu the restaurant is turning out. French-style "Croques" or grilled cheese sandwiches are delicate but deeply satisfying, including a simple brioche Monsieur ($9.18) filled with Jambon de Paris and Gruyere cheese, then topped with mornay sauce. Likewise the "Tartines" or opened-faced sandwiches are a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. The Fig variety ($11.03) arrives as a crosscut piece of baguette slathered with creamy Brillat Savarin cheese and topped with morsels of fig, whole toasted hazelnuts, rolled bites of prosciutto, mache leaves and a balsamic reduction.
If you go early enough, the itty bitty space is likely to have a free table or stool to perch on, but to make certain you get a seat, the restaurant takes reservations for parties of three or more after 8 p.m. The spot is blessedly BYO and they offer sparkling San Pellegrino sodas and waters for teetotalers.
195 Avenue A, (917) 853-5377