Ross Goldflam doesn’t think it odd that a business major who managed a Haagen-Dazs shop at 15 (“while the other kids were scooping”) and spent 10 years as a full-time stock trader should now run a French restaurant. “Both trading and cooking depend on doing things right, in steps, with complete attention to detail,” says Goldflam, who still watches the market on the side. “Trading technique creates capital. Cooking technique develops flavor.”
Goldflam applies this principle at his Westwood BYO, Technique, and my palate profited by dining there. The first thing I tasted, a puréed parsnip soup, was bewitchingly sweet and peppery, with garlicky baguette croutons providing textural contrast. On my next visit, an earthy sunchoke-and-roasted-garlic soup melded similar flavors with equal élan. Splendid dishes followed.
Goldflam opened his 54-seat bistro last December. Lofty quotes from Auguste Escoffier, Julia Child and Jacques Pépin adorn the wall moldings. The menu is tightly focused, with a soup du jour, seven starters, six entrées and three desserts. I sampled nearly the entire menu and recommend it all.
Technique’s exemplary cured wild-salmon starter is lusher and less salty than lox or gravlax. The richness of the steak tartare (velvety top round from Westwood Prime Meats) is tempered by piquant caperberries, shallots and cornichon pickles. Escargots, sometimes snidely referred to as pencil erasers, are tender and tasty in a silky reduction of red wine and beef marrow topped with spoon-size gnudi oozing ricotta.
Entrées keep the momentum going. The winter menu’s impressively tender lamb shank with Moroccan-style chickpeas and spices has been supplanted by a dish called lamb merguez. In this lamb-on-lamb double bill, a 10-ounce merguez sausage from Hackensack’s Salumeria Biellese tops a white-bean ragoût bursting with lamb-shank meat braised in white wine, garlic and sultry spices like cardamom, star anise and vanilla beans.
“When I was growing up,” says the Long Island native, now 50, “our kitchen was a magical place.” When he was 11, he helped his Greek-Jewish mom “make 1,056 prune hamantashen—I counted them. They were Purim gifts for everybody we knew: neighbors, relatives, teachers, doctors, the mailman, the milkman, the crossing guard.” Not long after, in junior high, “I decided I wanted to be a chef the day the boys baked in home ec.”
The route was not direct. “With family guidance, not pressure, behind me,” Goldflam says he earned a business degree. The way he sees it, “finance, like cooking, is balancing things. You can love both.”
After graduating, he drove cross-country and worked for four years as a trader on the San Francisco Stock Exchange. “I could see every transaction in my head, like a completed puzzle,” he says. Eventually, as trading became more technical and intricate, “the big picture was lost to all the data, all the noise. I lost my passion for trading.” And so, “it was time to follow my dream.”
In 1998, at 30, Goldflam earned a certificate from Manhattan’s French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Center). Meanwhile, “I’d gotten married and felt I needed to keep trading full-time.” But his heart was in food.
In 2003, he accepted an offer to become sous chef under Dominique Peyraudeau at Chez Dominique in Bergenfield. The restaurant closed a year later, “but boy, what a schooling in French technique,” he says. Next, “I laser focused on flavor” during an eight-year stint as executive chef at DiBari’s Catering in River Vale.
“We did endless hors d’oeuvres,” he recalls. “They’re a complete dish in one bite, and I figured out how to pack a ton of flavor and interest into each one, zeroing in on the few essential ingredients.” His bite-sized deviled egg niçoise (egg, bits of olive, green beans, potato and anchovy) is produced by his catering company in Westchester County but is not on the menu at Technique.
“Catering is technique writ large,” he maintains. “You don’t have the restaurant trappings—just your food naked on a cater-waiter’s tray. The recipe doesn’t change, whether you’re cooking for one or for 500.” It’s not on Westwood’s menu: “It’s more for a cocktail party than a French bistro,” he explains, “and we don’t do amuse-bouches.”
He does do entrées that more than amuse. His short ribs are fork tender and intensely beefy. The recipe calls for two days in a barbecue-like rub of salt, brown sugar, chili, cumin, coriander seeds, oregano and ground espresso beans; then a sear; then a two-hour braise in wine, beef stock, shallots, and black and green peppercorns. The meat is sauced with the reduced braising liquid and served with roasted carrot, turnip and fennel.
For warm weather, he modified classic coq au vin (“a French icon I couldn’t not use for my one chicken entrée”) by substituting riesling for the traditional red Burgundy. The leg and thigh of an organic bird are seared, braised with wine and vegetable stock, then removed. The liquid is reduced and served in a crock with the braised leg and thigh, a seared breast, and snap peas, roasted fingerlings, butter, fresh herbs and meaty lardons. (These roasted cubes of slab bacon are abundantly present in the salade frisée, making it a do-not-miss.)
Like the lamb merguez, the duck entrée is a two-parter. The pan-seared breast is cooked medium-rare to medium (your choice), nearly all its fat rendered into the succulent meat. The breast is paired with that epicurean pièce de résistance, an expertly confited leg and thigh, and served with a nutty-sweet sunchoke purée and house-made preserves “that could be gooseberry, cranberry, grape or some summer surprise,” Goldflam says.
During my visits, Technique’s wild-caught Atlantic halibut was pan seared and enhanced with truffled butter, cauliflower purée and spring peas. Seafood fettuccine came with large, sparingly seared shrimp and scallops and tender, shelled lobster. (Goldflam’s pristine seafood is delivered daily by Off the Hook in Midland Park.) The dish’s excellent sauce Américaine—composed of lobster stock, butter, white wine, saffron and tarragon—gets its name from Armorica, the old Roman term for Brittany, known then, as now, for shellfish.
The hit parade continues through dessert. There are three. Triple-chocolate mousse is a dreamy parfait of white, milk and dark chocolates from Belgium’s impeccable Callebaut. Perfect crème brulée, served in an extra-wide ramekin, “is Julia Child’s recipe,” notes Goldflam, “with only eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla.” The properly caramelized tarte tatin à la mode is equally good.
One wall of Technique’s cozy barroom bears a 12-foot-wide wallpaper reproduction of Renoir’s 1881 Luncheon of the Boating Party. Gathered around a table under a canopy, the men have stripped to their undershirts, the women are flushed and flirtatious in their frills and bonnets, and the rumpled tablecloth is covered with wine bottles, plates and a bowl of fruit. In its own way, Technique embraces that Gallic hedonism. “The ultimate goal of restaurant owning,” says Goldflam, “is to give diners a really good time.”Click here to leave a comment
Price Details:Soup, $10; appetizers, $14–$18; entreés, $36–$38; desserts, $10
Ambience:Understated elegance, with white tablecloths, white plates, and an open kitchen with counter seats
Service:Enthusiastic but still learning