Entries in Rouge et Blanc (1)


Rouge et Blanc

Last year’s fall previews mentioned a French–Vietnamese restaurant called Cinq à Sept. Shortly after opening, it was renamed Rouge et Blanc, without any intervening event (like a chef shuffle or a revamp) that would have prompted it.

Despite being launched twice, the restaurant has not attracted much critical notice, a Gael Greene rave being the only professional review I can find. It deserves a much closer look.

The folks behind it are Thomas Cregan, a former sommelier at Chanterelle and Beacon; and chef Matt Rojas, who has worked at Eleven Madison Park, Degustation, and Shang. No source I can find says how long he worked at those places, or what he did there; it’s not a bad resume, nevertheless.

The Vietnamese theme is interpreted awfully loosely, with Asian spices clearly evident in some dishes, and only barely there in others. But everything we tried was executed impeccably, albeit on a scale of modest ambition. It’s always a good sign when the menu is reprinted daily, and doesn’t overdo the number of choices: here, just eight appetizers ($10–18) and seven entrées ($19–34; all but one $27 or less).

Bone Marrow ($13; above left) is a wonderful start, roasted with grilled baby octopus, pickled plum sauce, and fennel, and served with a soft, warm roll. (There is otherwise no bread service.) Green Papaya ($12; above right) is a bright spring dish, with whole fried prawns and a curry vinaigrette.

The Vietnamese influence was less apparent in the entrées, but both were beautifully prepared. Quail ($26; above left) had the musky aroma of a charcoal grill, served with blue foot mushrooms and two quail eggs. Duck Confit ($26; above right) lay atop a sweetbread cassoulet.

The all-French wine list isn’t long, but markups aren’t ridiculous. A bottle of Château Moulin de Clotte was $48. You’d expect an ex-Chanterelle sommelier to know the correct temperature to serve a French red (61 degrees), and this one did, but casual restaurants seldom get it right. The owner overheard me comment on it, and came over to chat with us.

The décor is not easily categorized, but it’s charming. The Vietnamese accents are mostly in the background. French chansons waft over the speakers. A wide, glass window faces a cute, lightly-traveled block of MacDougal Street.

The attentive server provided reliable ordering guidance, but hadn’t yet learned to pour a full bottle of wine. That, and the lack of a proper bread service, were the only flaws at this otherwise adorable little restaurant.

Rouge et Blanc (48 MacDougal Street, south of Houston Street, SoHo)

Food: **
Service: *½
Ambiance: **
Overall: **