This week Robert Sietsema reviewed Cole’s Greenwich Village, a West Village restaurant in a building “shaped like a wedge of brie,” while Tejal Rao took a crack at Alder, Wylie Dufresne’s new spot in the East Village.
Sietsema begins with a history lesson:
For 30 years this space hummed along as Café de Bruxelles, occupying a West Village building shaped like a wedge of brie. Back then, the interior was stark white, decorated with jagged Constructivist artworks. Lace curtains hung in the windows, allowing customers at the bar to see a filmy version of passersby while downing a Duvel and savoring what was the restaurant’s most profound contribution to the neighborhood: the city’s best french fries. Served with homemade aioli and not quite crisp, they glistened in a shiny metal cone lined with white filter paper. The restaurant probably sold more of those wonderful fries than all the rest of the menu combined.
The short-lived Lyon Bouchon Moderne bistro followed in its footsteps, and now just one year later another tenant has arrived. Quelle surprise! The menu is again mainly Parisian, but with modernist Yankee tweaks. I approached Cole’s Greenwich Village with trepidation. Would the fries be as good?
Across town at Alder, Rao starts with the soup:
Here is a bowl of New England clam chowder ($15), the stock, thickened with potato, a silky conduit for the flavors of clams, bacon, and bay leaf, served with a bowl of “oyster crackers.” You know this dish, but there are those silly quotation marks, relics of menu-writing, reminding you that things aren’t always what they seem. Culinary tricks can be gimmicky and exhausting, and eaters can’t be blamed for approaching them with a healthy amount of skepticism. But at Alder, the quotes can also be a clue: You are about to witness a delightful and delicious sleight of hand.