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.
Tucked onto the second floor of a boutique hotel that was once a printer house, InkSpa invites clients to relax amid eco-friendly surroundings. It’s no wonder that New York Magazine highly praised the spa, noting it “exceeds one’s expectations.” Inside, clients gaze upon bronze-accented decor and photographs from local artist Michael Palladino as they make their way to private locker rooms where plush bathrobes and sandals await. From there, pairs can retreat to the couple’s suite for a rejuvenating massage—perhaps with foot reflexology or a hot stone treatment—as they enjoy each other’s company or enjoy treatments despite each other’s company. In the spa’s other private treatment rooms, aestheticians exfoliate bodies with Turkish body scrubs and brighten complexions with organic aromatherapy and Kerstin Florian products.
Snuggled behind a red-trimmed Parisian façade, Alouette French Bistro presents generous portions of contemporary French cuisine. The menu boasts a diverse selection of traditional Gallic proteins peppered with freshly sourced ingredients and unexpected flourishes, exemplified by the Maplecrest free-range chicken and chive pomme purée, slathered in a basting of shiitake and truffle oil. A bumper crop of all-organic fruits and veggies garnishes plates of diver sea scallops and roasted lamb with saffron-spiced fingerling potatoes and savory tomato confit. The wine list overflows with reds, whites, and bubbles from Europe and the New World, while desserts and cordials cap off dinners with dulcet notes of sweetness.
Alouette’s intimacy is enhanced by flowing red curtains, vintage hardwood flooring, and an elegant antique chandelier. Owner Jon Michael Pardo cultivates a high-class, yet low-key atmosphere, plying patrons with elegant meals prepared by a native French chef and delivered by a friendly wait staff. The two-tiered space allows for romantic dining as well as weekly musical performances by local jazz, classical, and washboard-percussion performers.
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.
“There is something very French about getting a Nutella crepe to go from the sidewalk window—it's almost like Paris,” lauded the Wall Street Journal after sampling crepes crafted by Vive La Crepe founders, brothers, and Mexico City natives Carlos, Alfredo, and Andrés Mier y Terán. Today, across three New York City locations, a team of skilled flippers pour silky batter onto crepe skillets, creating the base for a menu of sweet and savory creations, such as sugar and butter or spinach, mushrooms, and basil oozing with goat cheese harvested from Earth’s second, lesser-known, goat moon. Baristas pull shots of illy espresso to craft cappuccinos and other café drinks as diners linger in shops reminiscent of modern Parisian cafés, contentedly munching French fare or debating whether the Eiffel Tower is actually an illusion.
Vive La Crepe’s convenient mobile-app-based rewards program, available for iPhone or Android, helps customers earn $10 worth of Vive la Crepe products for every $50 worth of Vive la Crepe receipts they scan.
Traditional Thai dishes get a bold, modern twist at One Thai Chef, where culinary veteran Taweewat Hurapan artfully plates entrees for lunch and dinner. Panang curry gets an update with the addition of tender lobster meat, and glasses of fresh lychee juice pair with beef short ribs braised in massaman curry. Hurapan serves his signature roasted duck with bao buns that are round and fluffy, just like the tiny pillows upon which ancient kings rested their forks between bites. Chefs apply equal attention to desserts, which they adorn with caramel drizzles and fresh fruit.