Epernay’s executive chef Jayson Grossberg trained under legendary French chef Jean-Louis Palladin before attending New York’s Culinary Institute of America. Grossberg has used his pabulum-preparing powers for good and not evil, recently redesigning Epernay’s menu to add flavorful new dishes, such as the summer gazpacho with crab meat and lime ($10.95). Fresh-caught mussels come in three broths, such as the “a la Linda” with saffron and tomato ($15.95 single serving, $19.95 shared platter). If you'd like to keep your meal as light at a globetrotting eccentric's hot-air balloon, try a juicy beet salad with summer melon, arugula, and feta cheese ($10.95). Reward your stomach for keeping quiet during last night’s visit to the opera with an entree such as caramelized sea scallops with sweet corn, bacon, and tomato ($26.95). Or delve into the crispy duck breast with wild mushrooms, pistachios, and asparagus soaking in a sundried blueberry jus ($26.95) to enjoy a culinary harmony unseen since the California Raisins dominated the airwaves.
Red Hen Bistro orchestrates fresh, organic ingredients into a seasonal menu of French-American fare. Diners settle into the cozy confines of cherry-red walls with an hors d’oeuvres of moules frites, a plate of mussels basking in a tastescape of white wine, chorizo, and dijon cream ($13.95). Braised beef short ribs preen in a roasted cremini demi glace ($25.95) and a cushion of warm lentil salad supports pan-seared scallops ($25.95). Sate carbo-carnivorous cravings with the croque madame, which spreads dijon aioli on franchese bread, folds in ham and gruyere, and tops everything with an organic egg cooked sunny-side up ($12.95). Each week the desserts change according to availability of quality seasonal ingredients and horoscope readings.
The mastermind behind French Tart is Chef Laurent, whose innovation earned him a gold medal for Most Creative Restaurant Dessert at the Eger Foundation’s 2011 Taste of Staten Island and whose flaky croissant recently won the New York Daily News' Best of New York award. His culinary team also whips up authentic French specialties, including sweet and savory crepes, cheese fondue, and French-style sandwiches, dashed with originality. The eatery’s ever-shifting menu has included such offerings as pan-seared salmon inside puff pastries, zucchini-flower omelets, and chocolate ravioli. Iced teas are served with a blend of rose petals, lavender, jasmine, and dried berries. Along with breakfasts, brunches, and dinners served six days a week, Chef Laurent and his crew fill gift baskets year-round with baked goods, imported French foods, and slightly smaller gift baskets.
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.
Head chef Romain Bonnans brings his family's recipes to A.O.C. L'aile ou la Cuisse, his own slice of France in the West Village. Bonnans lends his authentic touch to recipes both classic and contemporary, from niçoise salad with fresh tuna and string beans to coq au vin, a red-wine chicken stew. Guests dine amid exposed brick, wrought-iron accents, and French-inspired artwork in the main dining room, or fancy themselves at an outdoor Parisian café while in the seasonal garden. There, flower boxes and climbing vines hang on the white latticework of a surrounding wall that effectively cuts diners off from the outside world and gives them free, unabashed rein to try holding their fork in their other hand.