Chances are you won't recognize Lee Hanson's and Riad Nasr's names, but you will recognize the restaurants they've had a hand in shaping. The duo, who first met as line cooks at Daniel in the early 90s, spent the majority of their careers launching landmark NYC establishments including Pastis, Minetta Tavern and Balthazar under restaurateur Keith McNally. But with Frenchette, the pair finally have a restaurant they can completely call their own.
Slide into one of Frenchette's red leather banquettes, and you might—just for a second—be reminded of McNally's flagship brasserie in Soho, but instead of sticking to the rule books of French cuisine and serving as a place to see and be seen, Frenchette aims to become a part of your weekly dinner routine, thanks to an updated—yet familiar-ish—menu.
So, no, you won't find onion soup in this dining room. You can, however, order a plate of white asparagus with leeks and gribiche (a dressing made with hard-boiled eggs), an open-faced mortadella sandwich that's a flashback to your favorite childhood lunch or a pool of custardy, soft-scrambled eggs that require 15 minutes of constant stirring per order before they're topped with snails in garlic butter.
Entrées include duck frites (with so many years in French kitchens, you can trust Nasr and Hanson know how to make a perfect fry), rotisserie lobster with a butter-curry sauce and a côte de boeuf for two that's been dry-aged for 50 days. Furthermore, the two chefs are breaking down three to four lambs (and an occasional pig) each week for the house-made charcuterie, pâtés and sausages also on the menu.
It's food that has all the hallmarks of a traditional French restaurant but revised for a newer generation of diners. "Our food has become less adorned, with less sauce," Nasr tells The New York Times of Frenchette's philosophy.
That doctrine is also reflected in the beverage program, which wine director Jorge Riera keeps free of the stuffy, high-end vintages and varietals one might expect when one sees the words French brasserie. Instead, the wine list focuses entirely on natural wines, most of which will be new and relatively unknown to most guests.
"We're just putting things on the menu that we like, that you might not see every day," Hanson explains to the New York Post. "We're French, but we're not quite French."
Frenchette is currently open for dinner, with breakfast and lunch to soon follow.
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