The New French

How new is The New French? Well it’s a new use for a preexisting space that was once Le Gamin. So technically, yes, it’s a new French restaurant where an old one used to be. Many people have asked me how French is it, or is it really French. It’s sort of French. I would say its postcolonial French or cosmopolitan French. Cuisine française du jour? And oh it’s so good!

Meeting a group of my good friends, whom I have known for years, for an early dinner to belatedly semi-celebrate my birthday, we entered the restaurant not knowing quite what to expect. My friends were especially happy, I’m sure, that I didn’t choose a ridiculously expensive restaurant like I usually do. We rarely do French because of the typical price point for French restaurants, but The New French fit nicely within our budgets with the most expensive meal, the halibut, at $24.

The restaurant fits the neighborhood like a glove. It has a low-key vibe, very informal, but still inviting. From outside the restaurant looks bigger, I guess because the vacant space next door almost seems like it's attached to the restaurant. Inside there are mirrors on one wall, which create a bigger visual impact. Most notable are the walls, washed in a warm glowing yellow and scrawled with artistic pen-and-ink-like sketches, the kind of sketches you might have scrawled in the margins of your school notebooks. Here it ends up on the wall. Too bad diners can’t join in (How about a CBGB-like graffiti wall?). The walls made me regret not keeping the notebooks that I filled with my school scrawlings. The chairs are outdoor bistro chairs, the kind made of weatherproof nylon rattan. They’re the same chairs from Le Gamin. It’s a small space, so small that it seems the kitchen could almost spill out of its small opening into the dining room. It’s not unlike one of those kitchens with a cutout for passing food through to the dining room. The wait staff was interesting; not one seemed to be able to pronounce the special of pappardelle. But we ordered it any way. The menus are simply printed on paper, the easier to clean—just throw it away. This is what I like about the place—no fuss. My menu ended up getting soaked from the liter of beer I shared with one friend. A local Brooklyn ale that was very good.

Skipping appetizers, the four of use went right for the entrées. It was hard to choose. The menu had the typical choices you would expect from a French bistro, like steak frites, moules frites, roast chicken, tuna niçoise salad, etc. Too full from lunch, I ordered the signature and namesake item, The New French Salad: a chopped salad of romaine, radicchio, celery, carrots, and multi-colored beets with chunks of gruyère and tossed with red-wine vinaigrette. The vegetables were nicely crisped and fresh. The dressing lent tartness, the radicchio bitterness, and the cheese a nice texture. I was pleasantly surprised and couldn’t finish the large portion. The menu also has other good salads featuring tuna, salmon, and steak. Our vegetarian friend orders the pizza bianco of the day, which was a gruyère and goat cheese, caramelized onion, and red pepper pizza. The pizza was good but appeared to be more of a bruschetta. It was basically half of a baguette sliced lengthwise. It would be easy to re-create it at home. My beer-sharing buddy ordered what probably I could have gone for, if I was in the meat-eating mood: the slow-roasted, chili-and-beer braised pulled pork sandwich on a brioche roll. It was spread with mustard, what the menu names a mustard raita, and served with a mesclun salad, which you can choose to forgo if you're in it for the meat and bread only. It was blissful and my friend inhaled it. Finally my New Zealand–bound friend (see Danielle the Kiwi blog) ordered the special of the day, the unpronounceable pappardelle with a stew of brisket and vegetables. The pasta was perfect and the brisket was tender as could be.

We even made room for dessert, all sharing a ginger and chili crème brûlée with a candle stuck to the plate in small celebration of my birthday. The crème brûlée was great; it was such a nice refresher to have a crème brûlée that wasn't just vanilla.

What makes the menu at The New French so different from the just-so-regular bistros is that it includes foods that you wouldn’t normally think of as French, but if you consider that France, especially Paris, is now a melting pot of different cultures from North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, you will realize how fitting the menu is. Notice that at The New French there is pho and vegetable curry on the menu, and that the roast chicken comes with bok choy and the braised lamb with cous cous. Also, notice that the menu features the all-American burger and fries, a meal that is currently becoming chic in Paris. So bring your appetite and go to The New French. I know next time I definitely will!

The New French
522 Hudson Street, near 10th Street
New York, NY 10014
Open daily for dinner, Monday through Thursday 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 11:30 p.m. and lunch, Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Appetizers range in price from $8 to $9 and entrées from $12 to $24.

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