Good French food with a side of grammar at a great, cozy French bistro in le coeur of Greenwich Village that feels like it has been around forever!
26 Greenwich Ave
212-933-1080 (btwn Charles/W 10th Sts)
A rudimentary lesson in French was certainly unexpected when we went to Le Beratin. With our waiter we discussed the etymology of bouillabaisse which when broken down from bouillir à la baisse translates to “boil and reduce.” We further went into the difference between riz (rice) and ris (brains). All of this food talk certainly perked up our appetites! I never did get around to asking what Le Baratin actually meant, although I suppose I could have asked any number of the French speaking patrons surrounding us for the translation. The little place that used to be home to the Lafayette French Pastry bakery feels like it has been around for years and is charmingly thrown together with ragtag bric-a-brac making companions with artist Mark Sehl’s fine sketches scattered about to enhance the proceedings. Just the kind of spot to secure a seat at the bar and mull over the menu with a few comfortable glasses of wine.
As we sat down at our simple table, colored by red and white checkerboard napkins, we readily acclimated to this new venture with a fizzy Kir Royal comprised of Champagne and Crème de Cassis, the blackcurrant liqueur—it was a pleasant diversion, and although we probably hadn’t had one since the 80’s, we sipped it with delight just the same. We moved on to a bottle of a crisply dry, French Sancerre that tasted wonderfully green, like draping, enveloping vines and duly suited us through the rest of our meal.
Onion soup was a rather obvious choice and didn’t disappoint, full-flavored and naturally, served in an earthenware crock cloaked with browned cheese. Chewy Escargots Persillade (that’s snails with parsley to you and me, bub) were steaming hot, garlicky and buttery delicious with a flutter of chopped parsley strewn about the little vessel. The pan-seared foie gras was only fair, a little undercooked for me and not overly flavorful. We did enjoy however the accompanying caramelized compote with Granny Smith apples and mangoes dressed in a balsamic drizzle. Fine hand-chopped steak tartare was chunky, fresh and deeply rosy pink, enlivened by minced white onions, parsley and a bracing stream of red pepper aioli.
We took to the crispy sweetbreads (thalamus glands, or the ris in question) readily enough and they were decent, surrounded by cubed carrots, squash, zucchini and peas and a smattering of thyme. We considered the Côte de Boeuf, a grass-fed rib-eye meant for two, but we found our main meat elsewhere. Medium-rare duck was a winner, served with charming bundles of verdant haricots verts wrapped in bacon! A zesty orange gastrique was a clever touch and we enjoyed the mashed potatoes with grainy Dijon mustard in an a l’ancien preparation, similar to Lyonnaise potatoes.
It was hardly a matter of much consideration to order the chilled chocolate mousse! In the midst of the creaminess, pieces of dark chocolate filled the ramekin that was outfitted with dollops of whipped cream. We did share it though, to leave our dignity somewhat intact, even as we considered ordering another one over our thoughts of returning to Le Baratin posthaste.
First published in part in Next magazine.
Photo credit: Gustavo Monroy