NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Laurent Manrique hopes to replicate the lively, Parisian vibe of his bistro and wine bars in San Francisco in his New York seafood brasserie, Millesime.
The 44-year-old chef, who grew up in Roques, a village in the Gascon region in southwest France, left for the United States in his 20s after developing a love of cooking from his grandmother and working a decade in Paris under master French chefs such as Yan Jacquot and Claude Deligne.
Manrique spoke to Reuters about goals for his new restaurant and his memories and experiences in France.
Q: What do you want to achieve with Millesime's menu?
A: "My goal is to share some of my childhood memories with my customers -- like the lemon mousseline I grew up with. With the overall experience, I want the customers to have a great time. At the end, everything should be good, and let's not make it into a destination space. Let's just go back."
Q: Compare Millesime with the brasseries you grew with?
A: "To do it exactly like how it was would be impossible, just because we are in different countries. New Yorkers live differently from Parisians. The products are different. Some brasseries in France are 300 years old. Lunchtime in Paris, people still have wine and alcohol. In New York, people like to go out late like in Paris and that's what I like about it."
Q: How does a brasserie like Millesime fit into the current New York dining scene?
A: "It's definitely the kind of place and the kind of food I like to eat when I go out with friends. It's something I want to convey to my customers. At this point in my career, this is what I want to do. From an economical perspective, customers, with what's happening in the country, are watching their wallets. They still want to go out, but they want more fun and less expense."
Q: You have live music nightly in the salon part of the restaurant. How does that enhance the experience for your diners?
A: "We don't want to play classical music because that will bring a formal ambience. Some music is French. Some is Brazilian. I want to have a 1930s, 1940s feel."
Q: What are your childhood memories of food?
A: "I grew up doing homework at the table in the kitchen of the inn where my grandmother was a cook. There was all the braising. For me, one of the best memories is something cooking for a long time in the kitchen in red wine, something baking in the oven or cooking over the fireplace. The whole house would smell like that."
Classic Mussels (serves 2)
2 cloves garlic, shaved
1 shallot, sliced into rings
1 sprig thyme, picked
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1-1/2 cups white wine
1/2 cup clam broth, canned
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 pounds mussels, cultivated, scrubbed clean
1 tablespoon parsley chopped
1/2 baguette cut in half
For the mussels:
Heat the oil in a covered, medium-sized pot on stove top; add the shallots, thyme and garlic. Cook until shallots soften.
Add the wine, bring to a boil and stir in the mussels. Cover the pot and cook the mussels until all of them have opened, about 6 to 8 minutes, discard any that do not open.
Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer and whisk in the butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in the parsley.
Pour the mixture over the mussels and serve immediately with grilled baguette or toasted baguette drizzled with olive oil.
For the baguette:
Brush cut side of baguette with oil, season with salt and pepper and toast or grill, cut side down until lightly golden brown.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney