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Charivari Is Old-School Dining - In a Good Way

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Located in a strip center directly behind the Spec's Warehouse on Smith in Midtown, Charivari serves a mix of European food that runs the gamut from Russia, to France, to every cuisine in between (including black bear), all served in a dining room fit for European royalty.

With dark-red drapes covering the windows, a dark-wood bar and soft instrumentals playing over the speakers, it's a formal, almost-stuffy, darkened room better suited for Count Dracula than business lunchers. But the atmosphere of the dining room was countered by the warmth and friendliness of Chef Johann Schuster and his wife Maria. A glass of properly poured German beer didn't hurt, either.

The mix of European cuisine was a bit confusing at first, but after learning that Johann was born in Romania and his wife was from Germany, it made a little more sense. My meal alone covered French, Italian, American and Peruvian cuisines - all at lunchtime. Throw in my glass of authentic German draught (which apparently takes quite a long time to pour), and I had spanned the globe within an hour and a half.

The servers carried all dishes out in grand fashion, with silver domes that they removed in sync. At first, I felt a bit embarrassed, but was accustomed to the theatrics by the third course. The meal began with a light butternut squash soup topped with a piece of crispy Serrano ham and a drizzle of olive oil that was unexpected, warming and, of course, delicious.

Second course was my favorite of the three - a squid ink pasta in a seafood broth with lobster claw meat. The whole thing was engulfed in foam that hovered like a little cloud and deflated with every bite. The pasta was so flavorful, I could have eaten a bowl by itself, but the lobster claw meat was a welcomed treat with a hint of Pernod. The foam was trendier than I had come to expect from my experience to that point, but remained the only thing that could be remotely categorized as such.

Lastly came a Berkshire pork chop stuffed with chipotles in panela. The crust on the outside of the moist, tender meat made my inner-chef incredibly jealous. The stuffing was a little on the spicy side, so I scraped some of it out before I could finish it all.

With a Peruvian fruit sorbets (camu camu and lucuma) in between as palate cleansers, it was a meal fit for a queen - of any country.

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