While French restaurants in New York have largely stuck to traditional dishes, the cuisine has continued to evolve in the homeland.
By mixing gastronomy with bistro food, young Parisian chefs have created “bistronomie,” a type of refined yet accessible fare served in a casual environment. Gone are the days of pâté, escargot and soufflés; now it’s all about rabbit pappardelle. And New York City chefs have begun to take notice.
“It used to be that chefs would serve really high-end, eight-course meals that took four hours. That’s not what people want anymore,” said Ginevra Iverson, co-owner of the bistro Calliope (84 E. Fourth St., Calliopenyc.com). “We offer that same quality of food in a neighborhood joint.”
European farmhouse dishes like eggs mayonnaise, hot and sour braised lamb neck and crispy roast chicken have proved wildly popular — the spot has been packed since it opened in May.
In November, chef Matt Aita and restaurateur Amadeus Bogner opened Le Philosophe (55 Bond St., Lephilosophe.us) to little fanfare. It wasn’t long, however, before dishes like frog legs and blanquette de veau were dubbed a “spiritual midpoint between Balthazar and La Grenouille” in The New York Times.
Pip Freeman modeled his month-old restaurant Three Letters (930 Fulton St., Clinton Hill, Threelettersbrooklyn.com) after a French truck stop café, serving comfort food like pork bourguignonne and mushroom tartine.
Together with former Momofuku chef Tien Ho, Gabriel Stulman just expanded his West Village restaurant empire. Montmarte (158 Eighth Ave., Montmartrenyc.com) a French-American bistro, incorporates old- and new-school influences into dishes like chicken liver croustillant and house cassoulet.
Perhaps the best example, though, is Andrew Carmellini’s bistro Lafayette (380 Lafayette St., 212-533-3000). The all-day restaurant with an adjoining café and bakery is slated to open on April 15 to much fanfare, and willsteer clear of haute cuisine by focusing on the regional cooking of southern France.
“My heart left fine dining years ago,” Carmellini said in a phone interview. “I wanted Lafayette to be the kind of place you just stop by for a bite to eat.”
Carmellini said the bistro revival in NYC is more than a trend: “There’s a timeless quality to French cooking. A delicious bowl of onion soup, an amazing bouillabaisse, frizée lardon — that to me is real comfort food.”