Orsay (1057 Lexington Ave.) is a bustling French brasserie, popular with the fashionable local Upper East Side crowd. Ladies who lunch can choose to settle into tall banquettes or dine on the terrace, where Executive Chef Jason Hicks serves his classic fare, with a twist. He tells the Resident about the perfect meal in Paris and the time frogs escaped from the kitchen.—Sascha Brodsky
Any tips for entertaining at home?
I always recommend keeping it simple when cooking at home. Don’t try and over impress your guests and stick within your capabilities. The biggest cooking disasters happen when you try and take on too much at once. Also make sure to buy the best products you can. Quality makes a big difference.
Where is your favorite place to eat in the city?
Raoul’s in Soho. Its simple, honest bistro fare and the closest thing I can find to Orsay.
What do you cook for yourself at home?
I like to slowly cook on the rotisserie, something like marinated leg of lamb accompanied by a simple potato salad and green salad.
Which ingredients should everyone have in the kitchen?
I guess just the basics for flavorings like salt and pepper, and essentials such as eggs, butter, milk and even pasta. I always prefer to work with fresh produce if possible, so I try not to stock up on too much.
What tool should everyone have in the kitchen?
Sharp knives and a steel to keep the edge.
Any tips for getting a good dinner reservation?
Just the good old staple: give plenty of advanced notice. If you prefer a particular area of the restaurant, the terrace, for example, or a quiet corner, mention it when booking.
What makes a good meal?
A meal that’s cooked by someone who doesn’t extend beyond their capabilities. It’s better to do something simple well than something complicated badly and of course, using the best possible produce available.
What is the best meal you’ve ever had? The worst?
The best was at The Bristol Hotel in Paris. The whole dining experience was what made it great, culminating in a perfectly executed meal, with chicken en vessie, an unusual recipe, as the highlight.
The worst meal was at Atlas, which is now closed. It was headed by the youngest chef to receive four stars from the Times but he sent over his speciality of carpaccio of escargots ... not the most appetizing dish I’ve ever been served!
Do you have any memorable stories from the kitchen?
When I was executive chef at La Goulou we had live frogs in the kitchen and one escaped into the dining room. At least customers knew the frogs legs were fresh that day. Also, at a previous restaurant where I worked, a waiter took an order from a regular grande dame client, but when he left the table to type in the order, he heard commotion coming from the table. When he returned to see if everything was ok, he was mortified to discover that the lady’s wig had attached itself to his apron and he’d been walking round with it.
What is the most common misconception about eating out?
By having the chef’s name on the menu, customers assume that he/she is in the kitchen day in day out. It isn’t necessarily the case with some of the bigger names, however they still have to maintain a rigorous quality.
Milk Chocolate And Sea Salt Tart
For chocolate sugar dough:
1 lb 2 oz butter
9 oz sugar
1 lb 10 oz flour
12 gms cacao powder
For chocolate filling:
7 1⁄2 oz heavy cream
13 1⁄2 oz milk chocolate (Weiss)
2 1⁄2 oz Gianduja chocolate (Weiss)
2 pinches sel de Guerande
Ovaltine ice cream
White chocolate cigarette
For chocolate sauce:
13 oz chocolate, 72 percent (Weiss)
13 oz milk
7.5 gms cocoa powder
Roll out and line a 9 1/2 inch non-stick tart shell mold. Line with parchment paper. Fill with beans and blind bake for 10 to 15 mins.
Melt chocolate in a bowl over double boiler. Add heavy cream then eggs. Pour mixture into blind-baked tart shell. Sprinkle with a little sel de Guerande. Bake at 325 F for 10 mins, turn 180 degree and bake for a further 10 mins.
Boil milk. Put chocolate into a bowl with the cocoa powder, and pour in the boiling milk. Whisk until you get a smooth emulsion.
Add garnish and serve.