~*Everyone*~ is talking about Frenchette. More specifically, New York’s critics are flocking to the bistro helmed by Balthazar-alums Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson. The restaurant embraces a few of-the-moment trends: It’s French! There’s natural wine! And since it opened in April, primetime reservations have been hard to come by, leading to a stacked walk-in line.
Nasr and Hanson also worked together at all-star restaurateur Keith McNally restaurants Minetta Tavern and Pastis, so they’re no strangers to a running a popular New York City bistro. But here, at their first restaurant on their own, they’re serving the hits with a twist, like duck frites, sea urchin deviled eggs, and rotisserie lobster with curry butter. The instant buzz seems to indicate that the formula is working, but here’s what the critics have to say — and stay tuned for more. This post will be updated with other reviews as they come in.
The Fantastic First Week News
Eater NY critic Robert Sietsema’s filed a first look at Frenchette back in April. One week after opening, Frenchette was “fantastic,” from the meal-making appetizers to the generous entrees to the fries (“Do I need to tell you how good the fries are?,” the critic asks). But Frenchette is more than a merely good restaurant. Sietsema says Frenchette brings something new and exciting to the world of French bistros and brasseries, with its orange (not red) banquettes, “playful” menu, and “exceptional” food.
The Safe Bet News
New York Times critic Pete Wells predicts that Frenchette is a “safe bet” to stick around for the foreseeable future. In a three-star review, he expounds on all the ways Frenchette isn’t the perfect French bistro. The small tables are too small, the menu too long and perhaps too “wintry,” and it “isn’t fake French, but it isn’t the real thing, either.”
And although the chefs’ take on the bistro format isn’t different enough to “get them recognized as visionaries,” Frenchette’s deceptively simple dishes are “worth planning a night around.” Wells is particularly fond of those dishes that focus on “big pieces of animals,” like the “terrific” blowfish tails and “sweet and custardy” calf’s liver. Wells sums up the chefs’ approach: “Frenchette says: Never mind art, let’s just cook.”
The Excellent New Restaurant News
Grub Street’s Adam Platt sees an “excellent” new restaurant in Frenchette, although absent McNally’s “theatrical touch.” In fact, Platt calls Frenchette “a chefs’ operation, not a crowd-pleasing, front-of-the-house one.” But while he finds the dining room atmosphere lacking, Platt admires Frenchette’s “carefully rendered dishes drawn from the old French canon.”
“Nasr and Hanson have a knack for adding unexpected little flourishes to dishes you’ve seen a thousand times before,” Platt says, and at Frenchette, the eggs are star-worthy, the roast chicken is “a thing of beauty,” and the tarte Tatin practically magical.
The Best Eggs News
GQ’s restaurant critic Brett Martin included Frenchette, and its brouillade with escargot in particular, among the highlights of his 2018 search for the country’s best new restaurants. Under the header “Best New Eggs,” he writes of the polenta-textured eggs topped with buttery snails: “It’s a dish you go back and forth between wanting to savor in tiny bites and devour in three.”
The Not Another Bistro News
New Yorker restaurant critic Hannah Goldfield says the glamorous Frenchette is great for two things: “mid-century Mad Men Martini cosplay and for people-watching.” But, as a restaurant, it’s maybe unnecessary. “Do we need another self-consciously luxurious brasserie, in a city so full of them?,” she asks.
Goldfield bemoans the fact that the buzz on food and social media created instant status dishes, which are executed to varying degrees of success. While Goldfield feels the duck frites are “deserving of reverence,” the brouillade with escargot has her wondering “Why?”
The Warm and Welcome News
Frenchette is one of Eater NY critic Ryan Sutton’s best restaurants of 2018 (so far). And in a two-star review, he raves about Frenchette’s rare quality of service. At Frenchette, he says, Nasr and Hanson succeed at making guests feel like they belong in a way that other similar restaurants don’t. “It’s the type of generosity that makes one think: Maybe Frenchette is worth the hour-long wait,” he writes.
The food also goes above and beyond the traditional French bistro, and is less a “staid institution like Balthazar,” and more a “creative small plates place.” Sutton declares the smoked eel fritters “ethereal,” the Paris Brest from pastry chef Michelle Palazzo “stunning,” and the wines “truly special.” And because Frenchette does so many things that no other New York City French bistro does, Sutton deems it worthy of the lines that continue to form at dinnertime.
The Best New Restaurant News
Eater critic Bill Addison named Frenchette one of the 18 best new restaurants in America. Amid a French cuisine revival, “Nasr and Hanson excel at cooking that lulls you into a bistro state of mind — at once animated and at ease,” he writes. Like Sutton, Addison is also wowed by the welcoming service from Frenchette’s “downright enchanting” front-of-house team. “The acts of small kindness at Frenchette feel disarmingly radical,” Addison writes, and asks, “Shouldn’t customers always be treated this graciously?”
• The French Bistro Is Newly Compelling at Frenchette [ENY]
• Frenchette Is Already Far More Exciting Than a Classic French Brasserie [ENY]
• It’s Not Fake French, It’s Frenchette [The New York Times]
• The Self-Conscious Luxury of Frenchette [The New Yorker]
• Frenchette’s Confident Takes on Timeworn Classics Brim With That Rare Combination of Creativity and Finesse [Grub Street]
• The 13 Dishes (and Other Things) I Can’t Stop Thinking About [GQ]