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.
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.
Barbara Bratone once served as the executive director of La Napoule Art Foundation in France’s Côte d’Azur. Arthur Bratone served as the managing partner of a private company in the Middle East. Their shared international experience—and palates for international fare—come to life at Bistro Rollin. The two have rigid standards for selecting their ingredients: they get as much local and organic produce, sustainably farmed seafood, and antibiotic- and hormone-free meat as possible. This makes for a rich selection that spans brunch, lunch, and dinner. Creamy endive and roasted apples and prunes lend the tender Long Island duck breast extra flavor. Chef Manny Lozano and his staff also pan roast skate with acorn squash and roast racks of pork. It’s no surprise that the spirit selection is locally harvested, too: whiskey from Gardiner, New York, bourbon from Brooklyn, and gin from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, pour into artisanal cocktails. Cozy, intricate decor rounds out the experience at Bistro Rollin. Beneath original tin ceilings—the space was constructed in 1910—guests slide into dark wood chairs that match paneling hand made by a local cabinetmaker. The granite bar is also custom, its wood base built to fit into the space as snugly as the pieces of a puzzle that depict a bug in a rug.
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.