Le Midi: Revenge of the Bistro


Onion Soup — On the subject of this classic soup associated with Paris — featuring a cheese-soaked crouton floating on top of a sweet dark broth — Patricia Wells quotes R.J. Cortine in her classic book Bistro Cooking: “The onion is the truffle of the poor.”

Starting over a decade ago, the French bistro in New York has undergone a slow but relentless decline. The low-fat craze of the ’90s was partly the culprit, but in addition Italian cuisine was ascending in popularity, and diners were beginning to prefer the fresh vegetables, lightly dressed homemade pastas, and saturated red wines that the genre represented.

But now the French bistro is undergoing a revival. Here are five of its cornerstones as presented by newcomer Le Midi Bistro on 13th Street, which is the subject of a Counter Culture review this week.

Mussels Mariniere — This bistro standard is originally from Provence, featuring an abundance of briny shellfish inundated with tomatoes, garlic, and white wine. It’s one of the most shareable apps.

Riesling Braised Chicken — This classic blanquette features poultry braised in a white wine sauce flavored with garlic and pickled onions, served over spaetzle in a tip of the hat to Franco-Teutonic cooking.

Frisee aux Lardons — This is the dish where the essential rightness of French cooking for today’s food sensibilties becomes apparent. Who can argue with crisp bacon lardons — and lots of them — plus a jiggly farmers’ market egg on top of an abundance of delicate and tasty greens?

Tarte Tatine — Bearing the season’s crispest apple, this flaky and butter flat pie constitutes the perfect conclusion to a bistro meal. It’s served warm with a bowl of creme fraiche.

The interior of Le Midi was once a loading dock.