Crepes on Columbus fills its namesake dish—thin, made-to-order pancakes—with sweet and savory ingredients, imbuing each bite with Franco-Spanish flavors. The quaint café’s crepes adapt to any appetite, brimming with rich infusions such as nutella and strawberries or roasted chicken and ratatouille, and serve as emergency head coverings during freak downpours of jams and preserves. The friendly wait staff serves both breakfast and dinner all day, comingling omelets, juicy cuts of meat, and seafood on tabletops, sided with desserts and smoothies.
In describing their restaurant as a ?contemporary Parisian bistro,? the staff at Cantine Parisienne commits to juxtaposition, which they cleverly carry out both on the menu and in the dining room?s decor. Traditional French dishes such as cod filet and veal escalope are made alongside New York classics such as club sandwiches and homemade cheesecake. Breakfasts take buffet form with flourishes including organic egg dishes and fresh fruit salad, while handcrafted cocktails and boutique French wines carry a sense of refinement.
Outside the kitchen, the space is designed to take advantage of another Parisian pastime: people watching. Twenty-foot open windows stretch to the high ceiling, allowing natural light to spill atop chrome accents and white-marble tables. Along with the latter, blue and red chairs complete the colors of the French flag and add vibrancy to the room.
When legendary chef Thomas Keller started telling patrons of his California dining mecca The French Laundry about plans for his new Manhattan restaurant, he said it wouldn't be the French Laundry “per se." Though vague, the summation was accurate—those who have visited the predecessor will recognize Per Se’s blue door and garden, as well as a pair of nine-course daily tasting menus inspired by seasonal ingredients or whatever the silverware is craving that day. Oysters and Pearls, pearl tapioca with oysters and white-sturgeon caviar, is lifted right from the Laundry menu, while the rotating dishes take inspiration from the surrounding region, such as a gateau of Hudson Valley Moulard duck foie gras. The restaurant, ranked as the sixth best in the world by Restaurant Magazine in 2012, has an urban edge over its Californian counterpart: Columbus Circle sits right outside the fourth-floor windows, which also allow for views of the Manhattan skyline and Central Park’s leafy canopies. Thomas’s taste for the culinary industry started early—as a youth, he worked in a restaurant managed by his mother in Palm Beach. His career quickly gained steam, as he studied at various Michelin-rated kitchens in France. He then returned to the United States, eventually taking over the reins at the French Laundry. Over the years he has nabbed consecutive Best Chef awards from the James Beard Foundation, was named America’s Best Chef by Time in 2001, and won Chef of the Year from the Culinary Institute of America. Now serving on the CIA’s Board of Trustees, he helps guide the school’s development while pioneering new ways to wear toques. In 2012, he was awarded the S. Pellegrino Lifetime Achievement Award.
It’s probably fair to say that Picholine chef and owner Terrance Brennan is obsessed with cheese. After all, inside Brennan’s 2,500-bottle wine cellar is a room he has affectionately christened the Cheese Cave. Here, controlled temperatures and humidity maintain the integrity of a variety of international cheeses, which a maître d’fromage presents on a marble-topped cart that Crain’s Gael Greene calls the “Tiffany of cheese carts.” In the European tradition, these cheeses are always presented at the end of the main course. They are an appropriate finale to a meal that celebrates French and Mediterranean culinary traditions in dishes such as sea-urchin panna cotta with caviar. Like a weatherman’s opinion on just about everything, the menus change every season, giving Brennan more freedom to use local and organic ingredients whenever he can.
Paradou takes its name from a village in the southern French countryside, and the provincial influence is apparent in nearly every aspect of the restaurant. No matter what it is serving, the bistro-style eatery celebrates Provençal cuisine with a notable lack of pretention. This isn’t to say that the seasonal menus are unrefined, though. Chef Kfir Ben Ari creates a handful of dishes that experiment with foie gras, including a reimagined gravlax that features foie gras cured in sugar cane, sea salt, and fennel leaves. However, the majority of the menu tempts diners with hearty, provincial classics such as short ribs braised in red wine, cast-iron-roasted duck breast, and bouillabaisse stew. The wine list complements this cuisine, offering more than 40 French wines by the bottle as well as the glass. The wine selection even influences the restaurant’s decor. Bottle-lined shelves reach from the floor to the ceiling along the restaurant’s back wall, and the tables and bar are built using repurposed French wine crates. Beyond the intimately sized dining room’s whitewashed brick walls and rustic, wooden floorboards, a short walk leads to the covered garden area, which seats outdoorsy guests year-round.
La Bouche Cafe feels distinctly European. From the sunny white patio tables to the pearl-strung chandeliers, everything in the cafe evokes an afternoon spent in a duchess's tea room sipping Earl Grey and asking questions about the constitutional monarchy. At La Bouche, diners can also sip tea, pairing cups with specialty crepes. Each thin pancake is filled with a choice of fruit, bananas slathered in Nutella, or even cuts of smoked salmon that add a savory note to the famous French dish. Only the slightly heavier end of the menu, chefs toss salads with fresh fruits and vegetables, and prepare sandwiches such as the croque monsieur piled with pear, ham, and Swiss cheese.