La Vara is one of those very “Brooklyn” restaurants where you feel like you’re surrounded by a diverse group of people who listen to NPR and volunteer at the local food co-op. On an early Sunday evening, there was the lesbian couple having a date night, the Millenials having a grown up day out, the locals taking their regular seats, and the bridge-and-tunnel Manhattan people (us) seeing how the hipper half live.Read More
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.
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.
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.
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.
110 Thompson St (between Prince and Spring St)
New York, NY 10012