Country Matters


Perhaps it’s the increasingly balkanized workstations in which we labor. Perhaps it’s the solitude of cursing the cursor for hours on end. Whatever the reason, more and more restaurants are reminding us of our need for friends and folk in our lives with their evocation of homes real and imagined, with their communal tables and their country-style food.

A Table in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene is such a spot. Looking for all the world as though transported from some provincial town square in the middle of France, this corner bistro reflects the eclecticism of the neighborhood, serving Pratt students reentering after a junior year at Beaux Arts, blasé buppies looking for a change from rice and peas, and displaced Francophiles. The hallmark is cuisine du pays, including such classics as a well-executed frisee aux lardons, mined with chunks of smoky slab bacon and topped with a melted Roquefort dressing ($8). Most of this food could have come from the pages of one of the well-thumbed tomes that sit on a shelf of the dining room cabinet, which also holds a treasure trove of toys—Viewmasters, stuffed animals, and wind-ups that are gleefully claimed by children of regular diners.

Two y’all-come table d’hôte tables dominate the center of the large open room and offer roosts for solo diners and those arriving too late to snag one of the separate setups on the perimeter. Indian summer evenings allow for outside dining, conversation, and pretending that the rosemary and sage in terra-cotta pots on the iron security gates are growing in Gallic window boxes while you nibble on the six plump Malpeque oysters served with a mignonette sauce ($9) or—if there’s a nip in the air—a warming bowl of the creamy leek and potato ($6).

This is the kind of place where you’d expect a Jacques Brel or Edith Piaf soundtrack for the Friday special of tender sliced duck breast served with a toothsome combination of string beans and carrots and garlicky sautéed greens ($18). And they’re there, occasionally. But so is a mellow mix of Delta blues, Eric Clapton, and Nina Simone that sets just the right tone for a menu that also includes specials like Chilean sea bass in a citrus vinaigrette ($19), a flaky slab of fish drizzled with a parsley-and-garlic slurry atop a pile of garlic-infused mash with asparagus bits peeking out.

If you arrive early, you’ll find the owners’ rambunctious young son giving the waitresses a hand setting up or a diner rollerblading in to make a reservation. The cozy country atmosphere prevails in the rough-hewn benches and the exposed-beam ceiling with whirring fans, and in an ambience that allows the huge portions like the tasty appetizer-classed soy and ginger tuna ($10) to come looking aesthetically challenged, as though plated by people, not elves with paintbrushes. But I like food on a human scale, particularly when it’s served with tumblers full of a delightful Chinon ’96 Olga Raffault ($32).

As I was readying to leave, I spied one of several Banania containers on a shelf. The Tirailleur Senegalais, France’s answer to Aunt Jemima, smiled complicitously, as though he too was proud to be a part of this enclave where all was comfort, calm, and good country food.

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