Restaurant review

Francie: restaurant review in New York

Francie’s dining room in a former Williamsburg bank.
Photo: DeSean McClinton-Holland

“It’s like last year never happened,” someone said after we sat for a minute or two in the refreshing, crowded dining room at the new Williamsburg destination. Francie. There were no masks in sight except on the staff, and the waiters were dressed in the sort of familiar bistro uniforms (aprons, ironed white shirts, etc.) that made them look like they had been recruited. by Danny Meyer himself. With its tastefully understated color tones and haute brasserie style (horseshoe benches along the two walls, lively open kitchen at the back), the room had a nostalgic and pre-pandemic air, as did the menu, which included all kinds of reminiscent of delicacies, like soufflés topped with caviar, lobster-stuffed ravioli rings and an elaborate ‘duck crown’ for two, which, the night I ordered it, was brought to table before cutting, nestled in a garland of flowers.

Francie’s owners, John Winterman (formerly of Bastard) and chef Chris Cipollone (Piora), are old-school gastronomic traditionalists, though, like anyone who had to weather the long pandemic winter (the restaurant officially opened in December but closed shortly afterwards). ), they made a lot of adjustments along the way. They sold cocktails outside the front door of the old bank that the restaurant occupies and for a while concocted a take out menu (duck sausage, Sicilian fried chicken sprinkled with fennel pollen). Unlike Peter Luger on the street, Francie has been prevented by city regulations from building a network of alfresco dining huts, so the feeling you get in the crowded indoor space – or at least the feeling that i ‘ve had – is both strange and heartwarming to familiar, like going to the movies or attending a Broadway premiere for the first time in a long time.

On the evenings I spent, the party crowd included local couples for dinner in their understated Brooklyn finery and even a culinary tourist or two, perhaps drawn to the recent michelin star seal of approval, who posed brilliantly at their tables as the waiters took their photos. They sipped ’80s pink Cosmos from a really good list of retro drinks and plucked raw vegetables from the garden arranged in little crystal bowls and collections of oysters and shrimp served in a formal and slightly old-fashioned way: on plates sprinkled with chilled beach pebbles and sprigs of seaweed. The petits fours we liked the most were the ribbons of homemade duck mortadella balanced on thin slices of toasted brioche, although an elaborate parsnip-flavored bombolone had its charms too, as did the moist, slightly lemony soufflé cakes that were garnished with a lot of seaweed. butter in addition to caviar.

Cipollone has an eye for these kind of subtly sumptuous (and subtly dated) ingredients, which he folds into relatively simple dishes to give them that little extra boost. My market salad was topped with dehydrated black olive crumbs, and an order of crunchy late spring asparagus was served in a pool of hollandaise sauce and sprinkled with bottarga. Instead of artichoke, the very good barigoule here is simmered with mushrooms (porcini mushrooms, morels) and crispy nuggets of boneless chicken wings topped with a single egg yolk. Along with lobster ravioli, the deviously opulent pasta includes fatty hat-shaped tortelli stuffed with suckling pig and sprinkled with pork crackers, and tubes of rigatoni that pasta makers in the kitchen tint a summery green. with an infusion of green garlic and mix with a sausage stew seasoned with fennel pollen.

Puffed cakes with seaweed butter and caviar.

Photographs by DeSean McClinton-Holland

The richness of this stylish, comfort food type of cooking can take some getting used to after months of subsisting on canned pantry recipes and take out, but if you calm down and put your feet up. common resources, many of Francie’s dishes are worth the price of admission. There’s a skillfully constructed vegetable pithivier encased in a buttery batter shell and perfectly seared Heritage pork chop that’s topped with a delicious sweet and sour combination of tangy cherry peppers and balsamic vinegar flavored molasses. Good beef is pricey these days, maybe that’s why prime rib ($ 175 with a pot of Hollandaise and steak fries on the side) didn’t seem worth the extravagant price, so if you’re into In the mood for a real treat, call the aforementioned Flower-Strewn Duck ($ 98), which is dry-aged for weeks to a fragrant tenderness and drizzled with honey for a sweet crunch of Peking Duck.

As in many places in the city, there is a feeling of celebration in the air at Francie, and why not? I enjoyed a modest glass of Spanish red wine with the excellent duck, but there are a variety of familiar big-priced bottles to choose from on the reserve list (the ’09 Harlan Estate Cab for $ 1,900 being the most. grande), as well as many carefully selected Champagnes. There are several tequilas and amaros to spend your money on too, and even a selection of fine cheeses, which is rolled among the tables by Winterman himself on what he insists is “the last cheese cart standing” in New York City. . If you have room, or energy, desserts include a rum baba (with pineapple and lots of crème fraîche), a pastry version of the expertly articulated New York cheesecake, and a very large sundae for two, including the Bunch of revelers at my table couldn’t do much no matter how hard we tried.

Pithivier with hazelnut curry.

The barigoule with mushrooms and chicken.

New York cheesecake with citrus and fennel.

The ice cream cup for two.

Photographs by DeSean McClinton-Holland


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