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'Bouillabaisse Week' Breathes Savory Life into French Favorites

By Emily Frost | June 4, 2013 9:38am
 French chefs in the city are inventing twists on the classic dish.
Bouillabaisse Week Kicks Off Uptown
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Local restaurants are stirring up a tribute to the famous French fish stew with inventive takes on the dish throughout the week. 

Longtime Upper West Side spots Le Monde, French Roast and Nice Matin are among nine city restaurants participating in "Bouillabaisse Week," which began this weekend and runs through June 7. 

At Le Monde at West 112th Street and Broadway, Chef Regis Courivaud relished the chance to branch out from some of his restaurant's staples, which he said he dares never to change for fear of revolt from his regulars. 

"The regular days get boring — to create stuff is fun," he said of one of his takes on the theme, a grilled monkfish salad with a saffron-based ice cream with a puree of garlic. 

Participating chefs were given a wide berth to play with the concept, but most agreed that there were key ingredients that could not be abandoned, including saffron, pernod, garlic, aioli and in most cases, fish. 

"I know what the components of the dish are — what can I do that's a little different?" Chef Frederick Piccarello of French Roast at West 85th and Broadway explained of his process, which led him to create a crepe with caramelized apples, pernod and saffron sabayon. 

Nice Matin's Chef Andy D'Amico has created more upscale creations to match the vibe of his restaurant, such as a ceviche provencal with mackerel marinated with fennel, chilies and tomatoes in a saffron lime vinaigrette.

The French dish invites playfulness in an American setting, the chefs remarked, but bouillabaisse has humble roots.

"The traditional bouillabaisse is from Marseilles, [France] and most of the time it was done by fisherman with monkfish," said Le Monde's Courivaud. 

Fishermen would throw in whatever was in the day's catch, he said. 

The three restaurants, owned by the same owners, the Tour de France group, make time and room to collaborate and exchange ideas, they said. 

In order to ensure there's no overlap in their execution, "we get together and we discuss things. It's a close group. We bounce ideas off each other," said Piccarello.