When you’re out for a good time and money is no object, then you might as well throw all that cash at Dirty French, the over-the-top bistro restaurant in The Ludlow Hotel. Excess is the name of the game here–you will spend way too much, drink too much, eat too much, and have a surprisingly good time doing it. By the time I was through with my gimlet, I was waving around a piece of my $78 chicken and singing along to the 80s music. It was so much fun.
At first, I was a little apprehensive that this place was all flash and no substance. The interior of the restaurant looked like a really bad modern art gallery, patroned by the sceniest of scenesters. When the hostess asked if we had a reservation on the night of the Juno snowpocalypse, I almost rolled my eyes–seriously, drop the act, there’s a snowstorm outside and you are nowhere near capacity. I was ready to hate this place.
But then that plate of bread came out. Oh my goodness, this was some seriously delicious bread. It was like a really soft and doughy naan, lightly coated in a slight slick of oil, topped with some rosemary, and served with a side of creamy fromage blanc. For bread this good, I would be willing to put up with some attitude from the front of house.
After dinner commenced with a showstopping opener, it was followed up by a very impressive “millefeuille” appetizer. I put this in quotes because, as opposed to layers of puff pastry, this millefeuille featured thin, precise layers of trumpet royal mushrooms. I was pretty impressed by this deft display of technique–manipulating a bulbous blob into elegant, rectangular strips is no easy task. The earthy millefeuille was served with a spicy and zesty green curry sauce, seasoned with some mint and lemongrass. This gave the dish a Southeast Asian flair, which was unexpected, but I guess this is why it’s Dirty French.
The meal reached a peak with the arrival of the chicken and crepes. It’s hard to innovate on chicken, but somehow Dirty French managed to accomplish this. The chicken dish is served in two parts. The breast meat comes first, in which thick slices of plump, tender meat are coated in a lovely, creamy mustard sauce. While the breast meat on its own is very good, it is meant to be rolled into a crepe with the accompanying vegetables, where the contrasting textures and flavors are captured in one bite.
Just when you think this is all there is to the chicken, the server will dump unruly pieces of grilled and charred legs and thighs on the table. The dark meat is such a contrast to the elegant breast meat. It is jarring and ugly, and the clawed chicken feet will make you afraid to eat it, but one bite of that sweet, lemongrass marinade will make you a believer.
Dinner managed to hold its high note all throughout the dessert course. The napoleon looked pretty classic in appearance, but there was a twist when you tasted the coconut and mint. The tatin very much embodied the spirit of the restaurant’s cooking–the pineapple was sweet, unexpected and extremely boozy. I’m not sure if it was the rum or the sugar talking, but with each bite of the pineapple, I could feel myself getting giddier and tipsier. Many selfies were taken, and more 80s songs were sung, and we were in such good spirits by the end of our meal. With Dirty French, you have to go big or go home, and once you’re game for that, you will have a filthy good time.
180 Ludlow St. (between E. Houston and Stanton St)
New York, NY 10002