It's surprising to find an ambitious Harlem restaurant that's not on either the strip of Frederick Douglass above Central Park or near the 125th street Lenox Avenue stop, but what it lacks in neighborhood appeal, it more than makes up for in its homeyness, great food, and extremely reasonable prices.
'french' on Serious Eats
Lucien is the sort of place you can go when you know what you want to eat, so long as what you want to eat is classic bistro fare. There's risk in running a restaurant so traditional—the food needs to be articulate and speak to guests in special, intimate ways, less the whole concept prove hollow and soulless. Lucien opened in 1998. After 16 years, the restaurant's got a way with words.
This is that increasing rarity in restaurants. It's the kind of value proposition that comes only when folks with experience and know-how combine it with a personal stake in the neighborhood to create a true gem. Did Fabrice Warin, who brings a front of the house pedigree that stems from Le Cercle Rouge to François Payard have to open a wine bar in central Harlem? No, but it helps that he lives a few doors down.
A satisfying, if imperfect, addition to the neighborhood's lunch options.
Paul Denamiel, chef and owner of Le Rivage, offers a dry aged steak special for two on Monday nights for a very attractive price: $99 for two 18 oz. New York strips.
La Boulangerie makes great French pastries, some of the best in Queens, at a fraction of some Manhattan prices. What should you order when you visit? Start with their bread pudding.
The folks behind Harlem's first ramen shop, Jin Ramen, have opened up their second sit-down restaurant on the corner of 121st street and Amsterdam. Flat Top, named after the griddle that most of their food is cooked on, serves up a menu of American-style bistro food with a somewhat upscale French and Mediterranean bent.
Jean Georges has their own unique convention for serving plated desserts. You choose from a menu of three or four themes based on either a season or an ingredient, like spring, chocolate, or citrus. Then you receive a large plate with four different takes on that theme. Any one of the four could serve as the sole plated dessert at most good restaurants.
First it was Locanda Verde, then the Dutch, and now chef Andrew Carmellini and his restaurateur partners have opened their third restaurant, Lafayette, a classy French bistro and bakery. Open morning, noon, and night, it's a very French-feeling place on the corner of Lafayette and Great Jones, with an emphasis on old-school Gallic traditions.
Gabriel Stulman's string of successful West Village restaurants—his Little Wisco restaurant group is up to six and counting—makes you both admire and fear a little bit for the man. How many times in a row can a band release a hit album? Surely there's bound to be some stumble upon the way, one place that doesn't quite hit the mark. Montemartre, in our experience, has been the weak link in the chain.
You can eat this Paris-Brest ($4.75) from Maison Kayser like a candy bar.
Cheesecake meets crème brûlée in the Torta di Ricotta ($12) at Sirio.
If you're up for a mild chicken and creamy spread kind of lunch, this is the way to do chicken salad right.
Table Verte opened a few months ago, and though its offerings are inconsistent, it's a fully vegetarian effort at a decidedly un-vegetarian concept: the French bistro.
Croissants are the highlight of any visit to Mille-Feuille, but don't forget about their other treats. Extra dark and voluptuous, Mille-Feuille's Royal Chocolate Mousse ($5) comes enrobed in an outer layer of dark chocolate and toasted hazelnuts.
For those of us who can't afford a ticket to the Continent, there's Pates et Traditions, a restaurant in Williamsburg specializing in dishes from the south of France with a north African inflection.
This is a loaf of Maison Kayser's Pain d'épices ($5), outfitted in a simple glaze and sized for one.
For those still on the hunt for pumpkin sweets: there are two types of seasonal goodies to keep you eyes out for at Maison Kayser.
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.
The opening of a great new bakery in town doesn't just give us bread hogs another place to purchase our loaves. It also raises the bar for all the other bakeries, forcing them to work a little harder to make the best product. New to the mix is Maison Kayser, just opened on Third Avenue by master baker Eric Kayser, who is as ambitious and creative in Paris—and Dubai and Singapore—as Eli Zabar is here.