With apologies to Auden, we'd like to point out that guidebooks make everything happen. Get a prominent mention in one, and your establishment will likely appear in others. Appear on a show like No Reservations, and you're even more set for patrons. During a recent Friday night dinner at Vin et Fleurs, a young lady from Japan wrote in her journal and scrolled through pictures from her SLR, while two tables of strangers became fast friends, bonding in their native French and sharing their itineraries for Brooklyn. At the bar, a woman playfully asked a man to guess her accent; after some awkward stabs punctuated by sips of wine, she revealed the truth: Yugoslavian. Name my accent, guess my ethnic heritage—in a cosmopolis like New York, these drinking games just invent themselves, and contribute to the sprightly atmosphere of this wine bar in Soho.
Since we already knew each other's geographic makeup, we went straight for the food. We started with an asparagus salad ($9.95), breaking the slightly salted poached egg all over the thin spears. Although there wasn't much asparagus, the cheese was surprisingly unstingy; we appreciated the heavy hand at the Parmesan grater. A pile of vinaigrette-dressed mesclun rounded out the plate, while the nubbins of baguette, shaped like pterodactyls, took the rest of the edge off.
The avocado crevettes ($9.25) offered two almost hollowed out halves of an avocado. And because nature abhors a vacuum, a chunky sautéed shrimp salad replaced the missing avocado. It oozed from the top like slow-witted lava. All had been mixed in a creamy cognac tarragon sauce, which evoked a milder Russian dressing. Billed as a starter, these crevettes were substantive, fuel for a shopping expedition in Soho or bar hopping in Nolita.
As you know, we're living in an informal era, where you can wear flip flops to four-star establishments. This attitude manifests at Vin et Fleurs via the large Kobe hot dog ($11.75), smothered in unassuming sauerkraut and bacon jam. Fancy meat in a decidedly unfancy preparation brings together high and low. Even better, using Kobe beef meant the hot dog lacked the typical saltiness and tough skin, offering instead a smooth butteriness.
This restaurant provides a reprieve from the commercial maw of Soho; it offers a skinny strip of cosmopolitan liveliness and tweaked French food. Its entire front opens straight onto a residential section of Thompson Street. Wine and flowers are a simple yet winning formula, worth naming a restaurant for, worth building a date around, worth including in a guide to New York City. Vin et Fleurs is best for: a traveler's date.