We spent the first several minutes of our first trip to Rebelle (218 Bowery, 917-639-3880) poring over the wine list — Patrick Cappiello, the sommelier and partner here, put together a collection of French and American bottles that’s both wide and deep, worthy of excavation. Wine is a crucial part of the story at Rebelle, but it’s not the only dimension here: The restaurant — a collaboration among Cappiello and Pearl & Ash partners Brandon McRill and Alessandro Zampedri, and chef Daniel Eddy — pays homage to the new Parisian restaurants that serve excellent and inventive food and great wine in casual spaces.
In fact, Eddy united with the Pearl & Ash team for this project because he’d been cooking in one of the restaurants that inspires Rebelle. After moving to Paris in 2009, he met Daniel Rose at Spring, who asked him if he’d commit to two years in France and help open a bigger Spring. Eddy ended up staying for three years, learning French plus Rose’s style and technique. “It took some time to break the mentality of New York cooking, where you work to death, keep pushing, and add more,” he says. “At Spring, it was about restraint — about looking at a dish for what it is and what it needs to be. About having the discipline to recognize when to stop.” Wine was also a huge part of dining at Spring; Parisians tend to view food and wine as complements, as equally large parts of an experience and discussion.
A couple of years ago, Eddy began contemplating moving back to the States — “My girlfriend came to Paris, and we had a kid; it was time to move back to New York City,” he explains. He wanted to realize his dream of opening his own restaurant, but he felt he had a lot of ground to make up when it came to fully understanding the city’s restaurant scene. A mutual friend put him in touch with Cappiello and McRill, who were beginning to plot a French restaurant as a follow-up to Pearl & Ash. “I came to Pearl & Ash, saw the wine list, saw the wines I’d come to love, saw the style, the personality, the neighborhood,” says Eddy. “As a New Yorker, the neighborhood was so cool to me. I grew up in East Harlem, and I came down to the Bowery as a kid — this was the New York I grew up with. We started talking, and it was very evident very quickly that we were all looking for the same thing.”
So what was that, exactly? “To create a contemporary restaurant based on our love for French food and wine,” says Eddy. And to make it accessible to everyone, especially those cooks who were constantly pursuing their next great meal, but couldn’t afford the price tag of the three-star Michelin restaurants. “We’re creating something for everyone,” says Eddy. “It’s inclusive rather than exclusive.”
The menu is organized by courses, and the full experience means something from each section. You’ll find lamb tartare and a play on classic leek vinaigrette among the first courses; and sweetbreads with crab and eggplant, and a spring medley of asparagus, ramps, and fiddlehead among the second. Entrees include classic roasted chicken — the potatoes roast in fallen chicken fat under the rotisserie, says Eddy — and a vegetarian twist on beef bourguignon made with beets.
Our advice? Whatever you do, don’t skip the leeks or the scallop with sea urchin and ginger crème. And don’t forgo dessert — pastry chef Jessica Yang is a veteran of Paris’s Guy Savoy and Per Se, and she’s putting together lovely pastry compositions that combine flavors like rhubarb and lemongrass, and chocolate and cardamom.
If a four-course meal sounds a little dear, consider grabbing a seat at the bar — it’s the ideal place to take down a sub-$50 bottle (there are several dozen on the list) and snack off the bar menu, which offers bites like anchovies, fried pig’s head, and steak bordelaise.