Note: Didier Virot left FR.OG in late 2007 to open a new restaurant in the Plaza Hotel. Jarett Brodie was his replacement. In a move of dazzling subtlety, the owners finally dropped the period from the restaurant’s title, and added a new basement lounge called “Origine.” Did they believe that a mere period was enough to change this restaurant’s fortunes? As of October 2008, it was closed. In December, it briefly re-opened as FROG Café. That move didn’t work either.
FR.OG is the latest offering from Chef Didier Virot with partner Philip Kirsh, who also own the restaurant Aix on the Upper West Side. Aix had its share of pains, as Virot’s upscale cuisine wasn’t a good fit for the neighborhood, and the place was later re-imagined as a more casual brasserie. FR.OG doesn’t appear to be off to a good start, either. It scored a rare pan from Restaurant Girl, and landed on the Eater Deathwatch just eight days after it opened (about a month ago, as I write this).
Cucumber Tomato SaladThe name, which is hardly appetizing, stands for “France Origine.” The theme is the cuisines of nations that have been inspired by the French, although the primary influence on display seems to be Moroccan. The décor is SoHo Chic, and could as easily be home to an ice cream parlor or a tapas bar. Eater justifies the early deathwatch with the explanation that no restaurant of this kind has survived.
I’m not ready to write off FR.OG just yet, but it needs to get better. We were pleased with the bread service—warm sliced pita with dipping sauce—but the visual presentation left a lot to be desired.
I started with the cucumber tomato salad with yogurt lime dressing and cilantro ($10). Consistent with the evening’s theme, the dish was enjoyable to eat, but the plating wasn’t pretty to look at.
Braised Lamb shank with Roasted Duck Breast
But that salad plating was worthy of Picasso compared to the entrée, a braised lamb shank with roasted duck breast, with cinnamon, chickpea, red onion, and Moroccan couscous ($28). The shotgun wedding of lamb and duck seemed bizarre, and the distinctly unappetizing presentation on the plate looked like slop. Having said that, Virot did a terrific job with the couscous and the duck. The lamb shank tasted just fine, but there didn’t seem to be any attempt to impart any flavor beyond what ordinary kitchen braising would produce.
Platings are indeed the problem here. Restaurant Girl complained about the phallic-looking Colossal Shrimp, which looked just as absurd in person as it did on her blog.
The wine list at FR.OG has some truly intriguing choices at good prices. We loved a 2003 Mas de la Dame ‘Le Stele’, from Provence, a region not often featured in restaurants. The appellation, Les Baux de Provence, was unfamiliar to me, but the 40/60 Cabernet/Syrah blend was the evening’s highlight.
The SoHo crowd was late to arrive, but by 9:30 p.m. or so, the space was nearly full, and by then we could only barely hear ourselves talk. Come to think of it, we were shouting and cupping our ears for most of the evening. FR.OG isn’t particularly pleasant.
The food has potential, but it needs some fine-tuning. At least, it is not terribly expensive. Appetizers are $9–18, entrées $24–36. We skipped dessert, and headed over to p*ong.
FR.OG (71 Spring Street between Lafayette & Crosby Streets, SoHo)