There’s a not-so-old joke that second to securing a reservation, the hardest thing to figure out at Frenchette, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson’s white-hot New York City brasserie, is how to use the steak knives. In a clever feat of literal reverse engineering, the sharp side is straight and the dull side is curved, creating a sort of trompe-l’œil effect that has polarized diners and raised the eyebrows of more than one critic.
They may be frustrating to some, but the tricky knives have also earned fans, not just for the way they look (very handsome), but also for the way they slice (very cleanly). This is no accident: Nasr and Hanson commissioned France-based knife maker Roland Lannier (whose knives are also used at global hotspots such as Amass in Copenhagen and Porte 12 in Paris), after coming across his similarly designed folded pocket knives.
“What drew us to Roland’s work is that his shapes are modern, but still reminiscent of a classic French pocket or picnic knife — it’s something old but new,” says Nasr. “We also liked how his style fits with some of the geometric patterns and lines that repeat themselves across the restaurant.”
Lannier offers the steak knife in over a dozen finishes, and Riad and Hanson selected a model with a noticeably long blade and a polished Corian handle.
“The best way to use them is not to push the knife through — it’s actually to draw the cut toward yourself, which makes for a clean, beautiful cut,” says Nasr. That clean cut leads to less struggle with bistro-style (i.e. slightly tougher) cuts of meat, like the restaurant’s steak and duck. As Nasr puts it, “A sharp straight edge cuts through meat, as opposed to tearing it, making the eating experience more enjoyable.” The knife is placed with all of the restaurant’s proteins (save for fish) for this reason.
As for the scandalous nature of the design itself? “Some people are confounded by it,” concedes Nasr. “But it’s a knife, for crying out loud. If we’re getting tripped up by one of man’s first tools, we’ve got bigger societal problems to contend with.”
Buy Roland Lannier Tableware’s Not Dead steak knives, $400 for set of four
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