Chef at his family’s restaurant Le Rivage, which has wooed Hells Kitchen with garlicky Escargots and buttery Sole Meuniere since 1982, Paul Denamiel is essentially French food royalty. So it only made sense that the scion should open his own charming bistro called Little Prince, which fits cozily into the conventional — but no less enchanting — tropes of a classic French bistro.
There are pressed tin ceilings, a gracious wooden bar, and romantic two-tops spilling out onto the street, along with a menu chock-a-block with Francophile favorites. As we’ve come to expect of any chef worth his fleur de sel, Denamiel makes an exemplary Ratatouille… a kaleidoscope of Oven-Dried Tomatoes, Summer Squash and Japanese Eggplant, crowned with a Soft Poached Egg. There’s also a lovely Frisee aux Lardons (liberally dotted with Nueske’s Bacon), a not-too-syrupy Canard a l’Orange (the sweetness balanced nicely by Cippolini Onions and Bitter Endive) and an excellent Steak au Poivre; the appropriately pedigreed dry-aged Creekstone Farms NY Strip accompanied by a mound of cheesy Swiss Chard.
But Denamiel really excels when he gently flouts tradition, most notably in the form of the French Onion Soup Burger. Originally leaked as an off-menu item, it’s easily become one of his signature dishes, currently listed between the Culotte Steak Frites and Grilled Colorado Lamb “Pour Deaux.” Inspired by the best-selling Soupe à l’oignon Gratinée at Le Rivage, it’s made with a signature Pat LaFrieda blend of short rib, brisket and chuck — the medium-rare patty smothered with Caramelized Onions, Emmenthal Cheese, Béchamel sauce and spicy Dijon. And while it’s certainly cutesy (see the jaunty French flag skewered through the toasted English Muffin), it manages to skirt being gimmicky, for the simple fact that it just tastes so damn good.
Not only that, but it’s a dish for all seasons… a way to enjoy the rich, indulgent flavors of Onion Gratinee in the spring or summer, minus the searing heat. But will we return to the Little Prince during the dead of winter as well, to assuage our twin cravings for hearty, rib-sticking soups and beefy, unctuous hamburgers? Mais Oui.