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After a horrific beginning, there are signs that Secession may be turning into a good restaurant.  [Update: So much for that. Less than a week after our visit, Secession has closed.]

This is the place that replaced three-star Danube and promptly crapped out, earning zero stars in this blog and from Frank Bruni of the Times. We’re seldom simpatico with Bruni, but we entirely agreed with him on everything at Secession—even the rude coat-check lady. How on earth did David Bouley believe he could serve a menu with 70 items and get even half of them right?

A few months after Bruni’s review, David Bouley wisely hired Christian Delouvrier to take over the kitchen at Secession. Delouvrier once earned three stars at Maurice in the Parker-Meridian Hotel, three stars at Les Celebrites in the Essex House, four stars at Lespinasse in the St. Regis, and three stars at Alain Ducasse, again in the Essex House. If it’s classic French cuisine that you want, Delouvrier is your man.

The menu at Secession has now been very wisely pared down to less than half its former girth. In our view, it could stand to be pared down even more, but it has taken a huge step in the right direction. We ordered two dishes that Delouvrier himself is responsible for, and we went home happy.

A cold pea and mint soup ($9) was terrific. Duck confit ($21) was exactly what this classic dish should be, but they ought to jettison the cast-iron serving dish, which only gets in the way. The fries are perfect, but those closer to the bottom of the pan got soggy.

It won’t be easy to get the critics back. None of the patrons seemed to be under fifty. The server mentioned that Danyelle Freeman of the Daily News was in last week, but she already posted an irrelevant pre-Delouvrier rave and is unlikely to review it again so soon. Mimi Sheraton was in the house. She is precisely the demographic that this restaurant appeals to, but she doesn’t have a reviewing platform these days.

Secession is a lot better than it was, but getting the recognition it deserves won’t be easy.

Secession (30 Hudson Street at Duane Street, TriBeCa)

Food: *
Service: *
Ambiance: ***
Overall: *

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