Classic French cuisine staged quite the comeback this past year, finally sloughing off its stodgy, fine dining connotations in the wake of a slew of modern, fuss-free debuts throughout the city, from Le Fond and L’Antagoniste in Brooklyn to Rebelle and La Gamelle in Manhattan. And moving towards 2016, duck confit and moules marinières seem as au courant as ever, what with the recent opening of Cassette, a rustic, Catalonian eatery in Greenpoint, closely followed by Le Garage, a week old, mother-and-daughter-run bistro in Bushwick.
That being said, owners Catherine and Rachel Allswang are anything but trend-chasers; in fact, Normandy native Catherine also helms a long-running series of restaurants (including La Laiterie Sainte Clotilde, Chez Graff and Le Café de Mars) in Paris, as well as Le Mistral and South Park Café in San Francisco. And with her first New York City venture, Le Garage, she’s finally brought her daughter, Rachel—formerly an interior designer—into the fold, who transformed four, previously abandoned lots into a charming stage for her mother’s effortlessly in vogue cooking, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, coral-padded banquettes, and a largely exposed kitchen, further delineated with an eye-catching backsplash of vibrant lemon yellow.
And, as one would hope, veteran chef Catherine is an omnipresent force in that kitchen—relinquishing as little as possible to her assembled group of obedient sous chefs. Without seeming too clever, she breathes new life into expected menu tropes, reimagining escargots as a toothsome topping for bite-sized, mahogany-skinned spuds, resulting in the borough’s most polished take on stuffed potato skins. In a spin on that brasserie mainstay, steak frites, ruby-centered rags of hanger are prepared a la plancha, accompanied by crackly diamonds of duck fat-fried potatoes, and served with their own pot of tarragon-spiked béarnaise. And if you’re struck with a sudden craving for roast chicken, consider Le Garage’s burnished bird pour deux, paired with hollowed-out bowls of supple, sweet lightening squash, cradling dairy-soused strands of spinach a la crème.
With dishes like these, it remains to be seen why French women never get fat.
159 Central Avenue, Bushwick