The first thing to know about Amélie, a French-style wine bar in the West Village, is its happy hour. Between 5 and 7 p.m., the restaurant offers a $10 "flight" of three half-glasses of wine from its extensive by-the-glass offerings; a steal by any New York standard, especially considering the generous pours. Go for the priciest wines on the list and get the most for your [meager] buck.
Then order some food, because the pleasures at Amélie don't end at the wine list. A retro-style but totally satisfying Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese ($9) is a good way to start things off, with toasty nuts, a drizzle of honey, and some deeply caramelized onion jam with toast points on the side.
The menu describes Gratin des Ravioles ($14) as a specialty of Valence in southern France. What arrives is a bubbling casserole of large, tender whole wheat ravioli stuffed with milky farmer's cheese and topped with a thick layer of melty Comtè cheese: a dairy-lover's dream at the intersection of dumpling and lasagne.
To lighten up all the cheese, try the House Salad ($14), a jumbo portion of crisp and bitter spring vegetables including radicchio, endive, asparagus, radish and fennel was just the ticket. I was hesitant about the truffle oil advertised in the dressing, but Amélie is the rare restaurant that uses it with severe restraint; the oil lent just a touch of funkiness to the crunchy, refreshing vegetables.
Despite a wealth of restaurant options, West 8th Street can feel like a no-man's land for good eating. But for those in search of a casual place with good wine and some food to match, Amélie is a worthy point of reference.
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