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New York Can’t Quit the French

New bistros and restaurants just keep coming.

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By Nikita Richardson

New York City’s love affair with the French dates back at least as far as the Marquis de Lafayette. For a time, fine dining in the city meant French dining: La Caravelle, Le Cirque, Divan Parisien, Lutèce. That obsession persists at places like Buvette, Raoul’s, Jean-Georges, Frenchette, Bar Tabac, French Louie and a certain restaurant where a supposedly imperfect omelet can power several news cycles. And don’t forget anything that begins with Le: Le Crocodile, Le Rock, Le Coucou, Le Parisien, Le Bernardin. …

We just can’t quit the French. After a brief pandemic lull, new French (or at least French-themed) restaurants are popping up like so many soufflés.

A Parisian Vibe and Crisp Frites

Perhaps the most buzzy “Le” is Le Dive, a small restaurant on the Lower East Side. It’s modeled after France’s many bar-tabacs with their carrot-shaped signs, where one can buy a pack of cigarettes to go with glass of wine or two. Here the wine is natural (à la Le Bistrot Paul Bert in the 11th Arrondissement of Paris), and the smokes are at the nearest bodega. Our occasional Where to Eat contributor Becky Hughes enjoys the artichoke and French fries in particular.

In the summer, Le Dive’s seating tends to pour out into the carless streets, evoking a dream of New York City dining: to feel as if the boundary between inside and outside barely exists. But in these winter months, consider meeting up with a group of friends for the family-style prix-fixe menu, at $60 per person. Nothing brings people together quite like a rich brandade and some steak frites to share.

Speaking of steak frites, Hell’s Kitchen is now home to a bistro named, what else, Steak Frites Bistro (not related to the longtime restaurant with a similar name near Union Square). It’s blessedly close to the Times building and could become my favorite spot for a post-work drink and whatever the French word is for nosh. The restaurant shines in all the places it needs to. The fries are crisp, the mussels stunningly tender and plump, and the namesake steak frites passed my ultimate test: The meat was perfectly salted. If you like your steak dressed, order a boat of au poivre or Béarnaise sauce on the side. All the better to dip the bottomless baguettes in.

As an added bonus, the wine list was put together by Alexis Percival, the sommelier and wine consultant behind Ruffian Wine Bar. The selection is “natural-leaning” but still decidedly French, with offerings from the Loire Valley, the Rhône and Languedoc. Great news for the wine lovers of western Manhattan.

A French Import

As you likely guessed, neither Le Dive nor Steak Frites is French-owned, a testament to the city’s determination to serve French food whether the French are involved or not. But if you want pedigree, then you’ll definitely want to visit Brasserie Fouquet’s New York in TriBeCa. It’s the first U.S. location of the 124-year-old hotel-restaurant on the Champs-Élysées, and if the French-speaking servers don’t convince you of its origins, the incredible Dover sole meunière served with turmeric potatoes drowned in butter certainly will.

I was also particularly taken with the endive salad with mortadella, which solves the ultimate salad problem: The dressing is never cold enough. The solution, apparently, is to turn that dressing into a mustard ice cream that you mix into your greens. Voilà, ice-cold dressing. And I’m still mourning the leftovers of the plate-size apple tart with Chantilly cream that I forgot to take home. It set this year’s bar for desserts perilously high. Guess I’ll have to go back for another one very, very soon.

In Other News …

This week, Pete Wells explored the many offerings — and shortcomings — of Urban Hawker, the Singaporean food hall with “a refreshingly humane view of street food” in Midtown, which began with Anthony Bourdain and the journalist and entrepreneur KF Seetoh.

Openings: Naples-born L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele has arrived in the West Village, offering much more than pizza; Delmonico’s, closed since 2020, will reopen this fall with a new executive chef and a slight redesign; and Sullivan Street Bakery has reopened after flooding damaged the storefront in November.

David A. Fahrenthold and Talmon Joseph Smith reported on ServSafe, the company behind an online food safety course that is mandatory for millions of food-service workers, who pay around $15 for the class. But many workers are unaware that ServSafe is part of the National Restaurant Association, which has used earnings from the course to lobby against raising the minimum wage.

Priya Krishna wrote about the popularity of instant pudding mix among professional chefs who treasure its convenience as much as its nostalgic flavor.

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