Claudette arrived in Greenwich Village several months ago, as welcome as a burst of sunshine after a rain storm. It’s a lovely Provençal bistro, in a city that can never have enough of them.
This is the third act for co-owner Carlos Suarez (Bobo, Rosemary’s). Wade Moises, who runs the kitchen at Rosemary’s, has come along for this venture as executive chef, along with chef de cuisine Koren Grieveson, who spent over a decade at the respected Chicago restaurant Avec.
I liked the food Rosemary’s, but it’s loud and perpetually packed; at the bar, you can barely move. I feared that Claudette would be more of the same, but it turns out to be surprisingly civilized. Suarez has created a warm, inviting room. There aren’t a ton of tables. The ample marble bar attracts a dinner crowd, not a party. It does get a tad loud, but not punishingly so.
This address has not been kind to restaurants, but there is nothing wrong with the location. I vaguely recall a place called Washington Park, years ago. The reasons for its demise escape me, but it later became Cru (felled by the recession), and then the short-lived Lotus of Siam (a terrible idea, doomed before it began). Claudette ought to last a while.
The menu is fairly brief, but it appears to change frequently. There are choices in four categories, with headings printed in French, but the dishes described entirely in English. There’s a quartet of salads under du Jardin ($8 each; $30 for the set); six Hors d’Oeuvres ($13–18), nine Entrées ($22–34; or grilled ribeye, $46); and four Garnitures, or side dishes ($8).
A few dishes are lazy: that Pat LaFreida ribeye that seems to find its way onto every menu in town; a hanger steak, just because; a cavatelli for diners who want a recognizable pasta option. But mostly, the chefs stick to their chosen Provençal and North African theme.
The kitchen served up a respectable shredded zucchini salad ($8; above left). The Pieds Paquet ($14; above right) sounded better than it was. Braised tripe and pork shoulder were chewy, their flavor mostly obscured by a hearty tomato broth. But I suppose the kitchen deserves some bravery points for offering it: the kitchen must believe in this dish, as it’s surely not on the menu due to any pent-up demand.
The Warm Duck Salad ($16; above left) is a better bet, and I much enjoyed the whole Roasted Dorade ($32; above right).
For dessert, we ordered a cheese plate ($16; above left) and a Chocolate Tart ($12; above right).
The all-French wine list runs to almost 200 bottles, an impressive selection for a restaurant this small, in a wide price range suited to all budgets. There are even a few half-bottles, along with fifteen wines by the glass, and a few reserve selections served with the Coravin. For those not looking to over-spend, there are plenty of bottles in the $40s and $50s, including 2008 Gamay we tried ($50; pictured above).
Staff are perhaps a bit over-eager to clear plates, but otherwise the service was fine. The bar offered to transfer my drinks to the table (always apprecaited at such places), and I only realized later that I wasn’t charged for my cocktails at all. The restaurant was full on a Wednesday evening, but reservations in recent weeks haven’t been as hard to come by as they were in the opening couple of months.
With such a terrific wine list, this is a restaurant one would want to visit again.
Claudette (24 Fifth Avenue between W. 9th & W. 10th Streets, Greenwich Village)
Food: Provençal and North African
Service: Good, for a place this busy
Ambiance: Bright, slightly rustic, and not over-crowded