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.
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.
New American | French Influences | Local Ingredients | Rotating Seasonal Menus | Monthly Brunch
When to Go: If it's dinner you're after, then any day Tuesday through Saturday will do. Fans of brunch, however, should mark their calendars for the last Sunday of every month from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. That's the only time that the restaurant serves up its mega-popular à la carte brunch menu, which features favorites such as freshly squeezed juices and housemade french pastries.
While You're Waiting
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Purge all your pent-up tension and stress with a relaxing Swedish massage at Flic Spa (2 South Avenue W.).
After: If, by some chance, you saved room for dessert, treat yourself to a scoop of premium handmade ice cream at Vanilla Bean Creamery (22 North Avenue W.).
Not only is Le Bernardin one of only six restaurants that currently boast a four-star rating from the New York Times but it has also received that honor every time it’s been reviewed since opening in 1986. Under the direction of Eric Ripert, who has been the executive chef here for 18 years, the constantly evolving menu dives deeply into one thing: sustainable seafood, with the majority of dishes divided into three sections. Under Almost Raw, patrons have found thinly shaved geoduck clam capped with osetra caviar, and Barely Touched offerings have included baby sepia crusted with herbs and served with sweet pepper jam. When it comes to the Lightly Cooked main courses, Eric has prepared crispy black bass paired with a roasted-shishito-and-acorn-squash “ceviche." With 24 hours' notice, he may bake a whole red snapper with an herbes de provence crust, enough to serve two people or one well-mannered pelican. Le Bernardin also offers nightly tasting menus, presenting whole tables with a collection of roughly seven or eight dishes matched with optional wine pairings. Those looking for a more modest, casual meal opt for a seat in the lounge, where craft cocktails pair with small plates such as tuna tartare or warm lobster en brioche. True to its mission of offering sustainable food, Le Bernardin's lounge also offers a three-course prix fixe lunch, with partial proceeds going to benefit City Harvest––a nonprofit dedicated to collecting surplus food from all aspects of the food industry and delivering it to those in need.
Stepping into Firebird Restaurant is like time traveling to 1912 Russia. The velvet-cushioned, curlicue-encrusted mansion—where Natalie Portman directed her short film Eve—sprang from the dreams of Baroness Irina von der Launitz, granddaughter of Saint Petersburg's turn-of-the-century mayor. A two-story entrance guards the dining room, just one of the many rooms where gourmet Russian meals and a sea of domestic and imported vodkas slake appetites. The caviar menu is sprinkled with poetic details about the roe's colors, flavors, and textures. Supping guests can choose from the main menu, and they can also opt for a dinner tasting, prix fixe meal, or private dining experience.
Suited for royalty, Firebird's decor is lush and dramatic, with vibrant curtains parting to reveal plump, cushioned chairs and fine porcelain. Marble busts contrast with the crimson wood and dining seats of the library, where gold gates corral avenues of old timey books. The ballroom's domed ceiling centers around a skylight, and the China Room's unexpected green walls, carpet, and curtains serve as a refreshing backdrop for delicate filigree accents.