February 2016 (see also 2019 below)
We are lucky to have the advice of my nephew Boyd who lives in town. There must be a hundred relatively recent startups at any time in this rich sexy city, but which ones will deliver the goods? Boyd knows a few, and this is one of them. It’s a small room but quietly lets you know it’s an “airy French bistro” with incipient haute cuisine ideas.
Approaching it on foot, we walk an impressive few blocks of the northwest corner of SoHo, passing (and checking out) a very serious bakery, and a basement sushi bar packed with busy chefs and Japanese clients but without any exterior signage. Nice neighbourhood (is there a not-nice neighbourhood on south Manhattan anymore except for places like Times Square? Don’t think so.).
Unassuming young guys oversee the front end, there is a bar on the left and maybe fifteen tables. We are happy to be seated in the middle, not hopelessly noisy, but we are late for lunch so things thin out as we order and eat. Robin cautions me not to look but (XYZ. I’m so hopelessly out of the picture I not only didn’t recognize his name at first but can’t remember it now) a famous comedian is sitting at the next table. I’m finally allowed to look and I see six ordinary-looking fortyish people.
We started with the quinoa salad which was perfectly balanced with its vinaigrette, crunchy but soft. The French onion soup burger was a nice achievement, the classic dish sidling up to the American fast food standard like a Parisienne tentatively in the mood. The modestly named roast chicken sandwich was packed with succulent delights between pieces of bread that disappeared in their softness.
The chef is called Matt Conroy. His staff is sophisticated and engaging. Prices were consistent with the goodies. Food 9.1, service 8.8, ambience 7.9, value (neglecting the worthless Canadian currency) 7.1. This is one we would look for as default on a future visit.
Return engagement, this time for brunch. Little has changed, except this time no movie star. It’s an easy walk from a Houston Street Metro, and even on a clear but chilly windy day there are people bundled up at an outside table (smoking, we later discovered…).
The service is cheery and very engaging. Brunch items are pretty straightforward, bacon and eggs and a couple of others. We decided to call it lunch and went for a shared salmon tartare, and then steak salad and their hamburger.
The food really was pretty close to first-rate, especially the burger which was soft and beautifully medium-rare. My steak salad was just a blue-cheese vinaigrette-dressed frisee with bits of apple, but steak with a subtle Asian Maui-ribs taste, and nicely rare and tender. Just about $US150 with our good tip and a bottle of French rose.
Still quite highly recommended, although we suspect that small bistros like this one come and go like the weather in this food-oriented town (our nephew Boyd has moved to Vancouver unfortunately…). For better or worse (probably better actually) this place is perhaps no longer the Little Prince it was a few years ago.
Food 8.9, service 9.3, ambience 8.5, value 7.6, peace and quiet 6.2.