What a wonderful time it is to be a Francophile in New York, with little French bistros and cafés opening all over town. I thought Frank Bruni told us that France was dead?
The dining room is a few steps down from sidewalk level, decorated in dark gray, with the menu written in chalk on the blackboard-colored walls. There’s a tiny bar and an even tinier counter in the kitchen that accommodates all of two guests at a time.
The chef, Sébastien Pourrat, serves tapas-style cuisine from the Southwest of France, near Basque country. It feels like half-French, half-Spanish.
There are about 25 items on the menu, priced $7–16, in eight categories (including desserts). Most are suitable for sharing (maybe not the soups). A terrific-looking bacon & Basque cheeseburger ($12), which we didn’t try, seems to be the only bail-out dish.
Salade de poulpe ($14; above left) was refreshing, the octupus tender and still warm. The poisson du jour ($16; above right) was a mackerel, very good but an unusual preparation, difficult to describe.
Farçis (stuffed vegetables) are a Provençal/Niçoise specialty (see the French Wikipedia article). Cocotte offers several of these; we had the champignons (mushrooms) stuffed with chorizo ($9; above left). The piperade ($10; above right) is served in one of the restaurant’s namesake small casserole dishes, a mix of braised bell peppers topped with a poached egg. We finished with the assiette de fromages ($16; below right).
The cuisine here is not complex, but it’s inexpensive and well made. This is the kind of restaurant you’d go back to again and again, and if there isn’t a “must have” on the menu, you can order anything and not be disappointed.
Aside from the cheese platter, nothing we had was quite like anything we’ve tried in the city. This menu is unique.
The wine list is not long (they say it’s growing soon), but it’s fairly priced, and everything on it is offered by the glass, small caraffe, large caraffe, or bottle. The staff offer tastes before pouring, a friendly practice many larger and far more expensive restaurants can’t be bothered with nowadays.
By 9:00pm on a Wednesday evening, the small space was full, but the servers’ attention never flagged. For more photos, see the slideshow below.
Cocotte (110 Thompson Street between Spring & Prince Streets, Soho)
Food: French–Basque cuisine, served tapas style
Service: Puts many larger places to shame
Ambiance: A small, dark, casual, but welcoming space