TYPE: Modern french bistro
VIBE: Fashionably civilized dining OCCASION: A cozy date or group dinner DON’T MISS DISH: Creamy orzo with lobster & chanterelle mushrooms DON’T BOTHER DISH: Roasted codfish DRINK SPECIALTY: 28-bottle wine list; 16 by the glass; 1/2 and whole carafes also available. PRICE: $60 & up HOURS: Open seven days a week, 5:30 PM – 2 AM. RESERVATIONS: Reservations recommended, especially on weekends. BONUS: Outdoor seating’s perfect for weekend brunch.
RESTAURANT GIRL RATES (1-10): 8 (excellent) FINAL WORD: Retreat from the frenetic Meatpacking streets into this warm French bistro and dine in style on splendid Provencal fare.
Owners Frederick and Laurent Lesort have decided to venture outside their midtown comfort zone (Frederick’s on Madison & Frederick’s on 58th St.), this time with a French bistro, safely situated just two blocks south of the chaotic Meatpacking epicenter. Though the empire expansion wreaks of a cheap, Cipriani-like imitation, the Lesort brothers appear to have left their signature inflated prices and attitude, uptown. Still, I was ready, perhaps even eager to dismiss the latest effort, as a restaurant built on style, instead of substance. But while Frederick’s Downtown will likely be a sceney destination for a younger generation of Upper East Sider as well as a Euro-chic set stuck in an uptown rut, it also surprisingly seems to be luring in locals and trendy types, hungering for quainter dining quarters.
The contemporary space, simply accented with dark wood floors, beige linen sconces and a zinc bar, gets a splash of color from lime banquettes and bright orange walls. Jean-Baptiste Parvaix, former manager of Le Bilboquet, partners up with the Lesort brothers, to play the part of charming host, thus bringing a polished sensibility without the Madison Avenue pretense. With a southeastern
slant on classic French fare, Frederick’s menu, designed by Chef Vincent Chirico (Acquavit & Tocqueville),
is generously peppered with pistou, fish and tartares a plenty.
With a serious fetish of the foie gras sorts, I was immediately intrigued by the foie gras du jour. On the night I visited, delicately seared nibbles of foie gras, skimming a faintly sweet puddle of balsamic fig
sauce, were topped off with fig preserves. After a precariously public moment with these divinely decadent nibbles, a la When Harry Met Sally, I’ve come to two incontrovertible conclusions:
1) Foie gras should only be eaten in the privacy of your own home, behind closed doors.
2) Foie gras should be served at the height of the meal, right before dessert. Though one could argue foie gras to be the perfect appetizer, a teaser to whet your appetite and leave you hungering for more, I argue this dish to be an undeniably climactic moment to be drawn out over dessert, think cigarettes post sex. Enough said.
I tried to regain composure as an artichoke salad arrived; fresh, finely shaved baby artichokes were served atop a bed of mache lettuce, finely
dressed in a chervil vinaigrette and topped off with pecorino cheese. Onto the pasta mid-course: I could’ve taken a bath in this luscious mascarpone-laced orzo, studded with chunks of
plump lobster and savory chanterelle mushrooms.
Drawing on southeastern French influences (St. Tropez & Nice), fish is a specialty here, and most are done exceptionally well here. The barely
seared sea scallops atop a cauliflower puree, were deliciously doused with
cherry vinegar-marinated golden raisins. However, I was underwhelmed by the roasted codfish, which was weakly seasoned with faint hints of garlic and oregano, and oddly-paired with an over-baked tomato.
Like both the decor and the rest of the fare, the desserts are neatly packaged and refined, yet entirely satisfying. The chocolate bar – a fluffy banana mousse coated with a thin layer of peanut butter & caramel – is encapsulated in a rich, dark chocolate shell , then pleasingly dusted
with candied peanuts.
I sat back and observed tables of stylish diners relishing the scene from their cozy, well-spaced tables, as if they’d eaten at this newcomer a dozen times before. With simple, but sublime food, this chic bistro might just tame the restless restaurant girl in me and transform me into a regular.
Until we eat again,
***Don’t forget to subscribe for Restaurant Girl Updates***