If you are a regular reader of this column, you have probably gotten the idea that not only do my husband and I like to eat, but we like seriously good food. Many of you out there, particularly those of you who have been saddled with a y chromosome, might be under the mistaken impression that any really remarkable meal must include meat. I am here today to tell you that you are very, very wrong, as I share a simply fabulous meal that we enjoyed at Orchidea.
An upscale dairy restaurant whose food is as stylish as it is substantive, Orchidea is centrally located in Boro Park on 12th Avenue. Step through the beaded silver curtain at Orchidea’s entrance, and you are magically transported into another time and place, where a relaxed elegance coexists harmoniously with a tangible sense of warmth that radiates from the helpful wait staff and owners Mazal Werczberger and Ofer Kohen. Whether you are a repeat customer or a first time visitor, from the moment you enter Orchidea you are treated like family. Only better.
Everything in Orchidea is homemade. The warm, crusty bread served on a wooden cutting board with a rustic knife? Homemade. The chilled dill butter that nestles comfortably into the cracks and crevices of the aforementioned bread? Homemade. The sushi, the magnificent desserts that we were too full to eat but ate anyway? All homemade. If you are eating it at Orchidea, it was made in Orchidea.
And wow, did we eat at Orchidea.
Our meal, hand-picked for us by Ofer, was nothing short of outstanding. Our warm half loaf of crusty bread was just the right size: big enough to enjoy, slathered with delicious dill butter, but not big enough to spoil our appetites. We shared three appetizers, one more delicious than the next.
The first, eggplant lexington was a whole, small smoked eggplant, topped with a creamy yellow broccoli laden sauce, an imaginative and artfully arranged pairing that set the tone for what was to come. The sea bass yakitori, three artful skewers of battered, deep fried sea bass nuggets served in individual ramekins with a light mayonnaise based sauce, was out of this world and artfully decorated with vertical pillars of romaine hearts, a creative and innovative touch that really added to the artistry of the plate. Under the crunchy batter, the sea bass was white and flaky, and while clearly fried food isn’t going to win you awards from the diet police, it didn’t have a heavy, greasy feel. The mozzarella basket was nothing short of phenomenal: deep fried, coated cubes of mozzarella, mingling with broccoli, mushrooms and onions in a nicely seasoned teriyaki sauce, all spilling out of an exquisite ruffled pastry basket. No sooner had we finished our appetizers than the most beautiful plate of sushi I have ever seen materialized at our table. Ultra fresh and very smooth, it was the best sushi I have ever tasted and my husband summed up our tempura-ed spider roll in just one word: stellar.
At this point in time, I could have happily fast-forwarded to dessert, but apparently Ofer had other ideas, as our main dishes showed up, looking like they had just come straight from a photo shoot. The spinach ravioli was a heavenly concoction, cooked to perfection and topped with a roasted garlic cream sauce that was decadent, velvety and beautifully seasoned. Our second main dish was a trio of fish and all I can say is if you think you don’t like fish it is because you have never tasted fish like this. The zucchini stuffed tilapia was lovely, perched happily on a stack of incredibly flavorful roasted, sliced sweet potatoes. The salmon fillet, topped with a sweet, savory sauce was perfectly cooked and paired with a ruffle of mashed potatoes. The impeccably prepared Chilean sea bass, served atop a zucchini carrot medley, was particularly impressive and in and of itself was worth the 86 mile round trip from home.
Somehow we managed to find room for dessert and our deliciously warm cappuccinos. The rectangular dessert plates were literal works of art, adorned with three small desserts and dusted in one corner with a stunning cocoa powder flower. Each plate had a small dome of cheesecake, topped with a delicious raspberry sauce, as well as an edible chocolate cylinder stuffed with cake and a delicious thick cream, plus one additional dessert, both of which were spectacular. The ice cream topped chocolate cake was warm and light, and oozed runny chocolate when pierced with cutlery. The napoleon was truly unique, with the usual puff pastry dough replaced by layers of thin, crisp, lightly sugared phyllo dough. There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to describe just how amazing these two desserts were and if you are anywhere near Boro Park, I suggest you put down the newspaper immediately and run, don’t walk, to Orchidea, so you can taste them both for yourself.
What makes Orchidea so unique is not just the truly excellent food and the exquisite presentation, although both are quite impressive. It is those factors, coupled with an unusual warmth, an ambiance of hominess that radiates throughout the elegantly appointed room. Despite the fact that we were there at 9 p,m, on a weeknight, the restaurant was full and no one seemed to be in a rush to leave. In addition to the attentive and knowledgeable waiters, the diners themselves were relaxed and friendly and one couple, frequent guests at Orchidea, introduced themselves, telling us, “You feel like you are eating with family when you eat here.”
It is clear that everything at Orchidea is personal and that the owners take tremendous pride in every plate and every creatively arranged catered affair, both those that take place off site and those that take advantage of Orchidea’s lovingly designed party room.
That personal touch is what makes Orchidea not just a restaurant but a truly memorable experience. Perhaps Ofer himself summed it up best, saying, “Everything here is from the heart. That is our secret.”
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