French Spanish Tapas at Cocotte

Cocotte is one of those restaurants that’s easy to miss. You could probably walk up and down Thompson St a thousand times and never know this place existed. Part of the reason why is that Cocotte is located below ground, so the signage isn’t really all that visible at eye level. But those who look carefully will discover a little bit of Paris in Soho. The space is small and stylish, with dark mood lighting, that makes it perfect for date night or for those looking for a good atmosphere. Drink up, because the menu of small plates, which are Basque in origin, will complement those glasses of wine very well.

welcome to cocotte
welcome to cocotte

The Basque influences are interesting, and you can really taste both the French and Spanish flavors in the food. The foie gras, for instance, isn’t the typical block of duck or goose liver served straight up with a side of bread. The version at Cocotte has strips of leeks and peppers interspersed for a little more spice and vivacity. There are the more traditional dishes for those hard core Francophiles. The thick butternut squash soup had loads of heavy cream which was unmistakably French, and the usual suspects of hanger steak and duck confit were on the menu.

leeks and foie gras terrine
leeks and foie gras terrine with piquillo peppers
butternut squash soup
butternut squash soup

I didn’t want cream and fat to rule the dinner completely, so I ordered the grilled dorade and the side of lentils to keep things light. The dorade filet was pretty solid, the skin perhaps could have been crisper, but the fish itself was salted and seasoned properly. Lentils are normally earthy and hearty, but the ones on this plate were dressed in a vinaigrette that lightened up these characteristics, although not without some bacon bits, but only enough to enjoy yourself and not to feel bad.

Processed with VSCOcam with m6 preset
dorade with market vegetables
Processed with VSCOcam with m6 preset
french green lentils with crunchy bacon
Processed with VSCOcam with m6 preset
lemon tart

For dessert, we shared a lemon tart, which was as sweet and tart as you’d expect a glass of lemonade to be. You know what was surprisingly not tart? The service. This is one thing that wasn’t very French about Cocotte, the fact that the waitstaff was so friendly and genuinely wanted to see if we were enjoying the food. It’s like all the perks of Paris and none of the downside. So if you’re ever in Soho, take a moment to look around carefully, walk down those steps, and enjoy yourself with some good food and good company.


Cocotte
110 Thompson St (between Prince and Spring St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 965-9100

Filthy Good Food at Dirty French

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.

flat bread with fromage blanc
flat bread with fromage blanc

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.

mushroom millefeuille
mushroom millefeuille

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.

chicken and crepes, part 1 - breast meat
chicken and crepes, part 1 – breast meat

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.

chicken and crepes, part deux - dark meat
chicken and crepes, part deux – dark meat

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.

napoleon
napoleon
dirty french - tatin
pineapple tatin

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.


Dirty French
180 Ludlow St. (between E. Houston and Stanton St)
New York, NY 10002
212-254-3000

Bara Restaurant

Tasty French Plates @ Wallflower

I loved my meal at The Eddy so much that I had to try the food at its sister restaurant Wallflower. Wallflower is similarly a small, neighborhood spot, this time in the West Village, and much, much more French. You really feel as though you’ve just stepped into a small, chic cafe in the Marais district, tended to by a dandy bartender pouring things from stylishly misshapen bottles. The food luckily is just as charming as its surroundings. It is a tad rich, as French food tends to be, but there’s always an element in the dish that cuts through the fat and reels it in.

The foie gras on brioche, for instance, is a heavy delicacy, but the candied fruit transforms it into a savory jam that can be applied endlessly to the lovely, rectangular croutons that accompany it. The hamachi, a fatty variety of white fish, is dressed in olive oil in homage to its buttery nature, but the pine nuts and grapefruit appropriately temper these rich tendencies. The  breezy and likeable chevre cheese platter was the lightest of the bunch, resembling a hybrid of a very mild ricotta and goat cheese seasoned with bits of honey. The point is that you will indulge, but not overly so–the Wallflower successfully adheres to the less is more strategy with full flavored foods.

wallflower - chevre with frean breakfast radishes and basil
chevre cheese with french breakfast radishes and basil
wallflower - foie gras torchon with quince mostarda and granny smith apple
foie gras torchon, quince mostarda and granny smith apple
wallflower - hamachi with grapefruit pine nuts horseradish aioli
hamachi with grapefruit, pine nuts and horseradish aioli

The appetizers seemed to be constructed around the theme of tempered excess to leave some room for the entrees, which unabashedly embraced luscious, marbled proteins. The salmon seemed to assume the quality of butter with the way it literally just melted into my mouth. I had a similar experience with the pork dish, which was served as both a belly and a loin. Pork belly is such a caricature of fatty excess, so no surprise about the richness there, but the loin, a cut susceptible to tough, dry treatment, managed to dissolve as well. The seafood red wine broth was packed with flavor, but not in a rhapsodic way that left me wanting more. I felt like I was swallowing pure squid ink at times, and while some of the seafood and bread helped to dilute the effects, it wasn’t by very much.

wallflower - scottish salmon, tomato coulis, garigoule artichokes
scottish salmon, tomato coulis, barigoule artichokes
wallflower - pork tenderloin, turnip, barley, plum
pork tenderloin, turnip, barley and plum
wallflower - octopus, clams, rouille crostini and red wine broth
octopus, clams, rouille crostini and red wine broth

For a restaurant called the Wallflower, it surprisingly has a lot to say through its food, the majority of it extremely good. Perhaps the name is more of a reference to how it’s happy to keep a low profile and assume the status of a neighborhood restaurant–it isn’t attempting to be a Dirty French or a Pastis. But it can’t be a wallflower for long, because sure enough more and more will take notice of this little place and force it to be the social butterfly it was meant to be.


Wallflower
235 W. 12th St (between W. 4th St and Greenwich Ave)
New York, NY 10014
Apparently the phone doesn’t work?? Email info@wallflowernyc.com

Wallflower