Red Hen Bistro's made-from-scratch menu revolves around the fresh, seasonal meats, fish, and produce in French and Californian cuisine. Francophiles will feel conflicted in trying to select only one dish, be it the croque madame, an upscale ham-and-cheese sandwich topped with a sunny-side-up egg ($10.95), or the salad nicoise, a hearty helping of organic greens crowned with roasted potatoes and hard-boiled eggs ($8.95). California dreamers can sample West Coast–inspired temptations such as tamales with braised pork ($8.95) and fish tacos served in crisp tortillas ($9.95). Simplicity seekers can opt for the tomato soup and grilled cheese ($9.95) while enjoying the restaurant’s attention to detail—evident in both the food and front-of-house service. With rich-red walls, large windows boasting street views, and touches of French country charm, Red Hen Bistro exudes an air of casual intimacy, though lacy nightclothes are discouraged.
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.
Chef Thomas Keller is known for his emphasis on local foods. He and his team at Per Se have created a pair of nine-course tasting menus that celebrate the harvests of New York’s farmers. The small plates are designed, somewhat cruelly, to leave diners wishing they had just one more bite of foie gras or poached quince.
Named after an olive native to France and Italy, Picholine fittingly infuses French cuisine with Mediterranean notes. Considering how close the two regions are to one another, this fusion consistently yields surprises, such as a sea-urchin panna cotta with caviar and chilled ocean consommé.
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.