Breakfast at Plein Sud

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[Photos: Ashley Muir Bruhn]

Scathing reviews of the lunch and dinner service at Plein Sud made us skeptical, but we were still drawn to the newest light-filled space to be designed by the superstar firm, AvroKO (Public, Double Crown, Park Avenue), set in Tribeca's Smyth Hotel. Plein Sud, meaning "Far South" in French, aims to evoke Provence—both in its decor and on its menu—but not in a heavy-handed way. We had high hopes that Chef Ed Cotton (of Top Chef fame) was having more success with his breakfast game.

Our waiter recommended the Eggs Benedict ($14), which I'm always up for. I shared his opinion that these are ones worth trying: the hollandaise was buttery with a slightly tart undertone; the Parisian ham was reminiscent of a Jamon Serrano and went well with the perfectly poached eggs. Each plate comes with a few fried potatoes to soak up the sauce, and a very garlicky tomato Provençal—which is best advised for those not on a first date.

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The buttermilk pancakes with blueberries ($14) fall into that "knock-your-socks-off" category of good (but you do pay for the pleasure). Vanilla mascarpone and maple syrup are served alongside the crispy, buttery pancakes. The mascarpone is like frosting—decadent, delicious, and not always necessary when the cake is done right (which in this case, it is), but oh-so-good. The pancakes reminded me a little of the ones my uncle used to make: he'd practically fry the edges in order to get me to eat buckwheat.

With both dishes, the portions are just right: you leave satisfied, but not so stuffed that you're ready to fall back asleep.

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Diana's Granola ($13) comes with beautiful, ripe berries. In other words, not local nor seasonal, but appreciated. Served over sour Friendship yogurt, the granola—which true connoisseurs should note is sweet in the vein of a crumbled Nature's Valley Bar—makes a for a beautiful, if pricey dish.

Danishes and mini-muffins sit atop the bar, along with mini-boxes of cereal (ostensibly for Smyth's hotel guests) and the coffee comes smooth and bottomless, by Danesi. It's also nice, if you're steering clear of things like hollandaise and marscapone, to find a menu that offers sensible Red Mill Oatmeal ($9) and egg-white omelettes ($12) as well.

Plein Sud had already made fans of many sporty, well-to-do families in Tribeca (that 30- to 40-something crowd who already finished a run along the Hudson earlier that morning). And we found ourselves enamored with the breakfast dishes we sampled. Bright and spacious, it's the sort of place to play hooky on a day off, but we also noted that the restaurant takes reservations: a plus if you're hoping to plan ahead.

Plein Sud

85 West Broadway, New York NY 10007 (map) 212-204-5555