How did I miss this it? A French bistro as cute as Le Jardin was on Cleveland Place for 15 years, and I never noticed.
Meanwhile, Le Jardin’s original owner, Israel Katz, found a business partner and re-opened Le Jardin in an old townhouse on Avenue C, or perhaps I should say, “Rue C.”
A lovelier spot for a rustic French bistro would be difficult to imagine. On the ground floor, there’s a bar and an enclosed patio. Most of the seating is up a flight of stairs, where there’s a spectacular bi-level dining room with an open kitchen, distressed brick walls, and a functional fireplace, which was roaring the evening we went. Past a set of French doors, there’s an enclosed candle-lit garden, which is open all year.
If you’re looking for the ultimate charming third-date spot, put Le Jardin at the top of the list.
The menu is taken from the French bistro playbook. There is nothing original, but if you love this cuisine, you will want to order all of it. Prices are so modest, you could stay all night and have dinner twice. Appetizers are $5–12, mains $14–22. For dessert, cheeses are $4 each, sweets $9.
The all-French wine list offers nine choices by the glass, fourteen modestly-priced bottles ($42–69), and and ten “cru & back vintages” soaring up to $750 for a 1989 second-growth St. Julien. We were happy to order at the expensive end of the regular list, a 2009 Hautes-Côtes de Nuits ($69).
We started with the Egg mayo ($5; above left) and the Foie gras mousse ($14; above right).
There was nothing complicated about the two main courses, Chicken Calvados ($19; above left) and Coq au Vin ($19; above right). Wendy liked the coq so much that we’ve now made it twice at home (perhaps nothing to write about for other people, but a significant undertaking for non-cooks like us).
We finished with a cheese course ($8; above), choosing the camenbert and the roquefort from a list of five.
The restaurant was not busy on a cold Wednesday evening. I think there was just one other occupied table plus a solo bar diner when we arrived at 8pm; three or four more tables were seated by the time we left. I hope they’re a lot busier on the weekends. They certainly deserve to be. If it’s available, ask for the table next to the fireplace.
The cuisine, of course, stretches no culinary boundaries. It is capably executed; that is all. But I cannot think of a better casual spot on a winter’s night. If you love French bistro cuisine, you’ll be happy here.
Le Jardin Bistro (115 Avenue C between E. 7th & E. 8th Streets, East Village)
Food: The French bistro playbook
Service: Just fine
Ambiance: A romantic bi-level townhouse with a fireplace and a year-round garden