Le Baratin, 26 Greenwich Ave (btwn Charles/W 10th Sts), 212-933-1080, LeBaratinNYC.com
SHORT ORDER: A great, cozy French bistro in le coeur of the West Village that feels like it’s been around forever.
PETER’S PICKS: French onion soup; duck; mashed potatoes; chocolate mousse
PETER’S PANS: unexceptional foie gras
A rudimentary lesson in French was certainly unexpected when my fella and I went to Le Baratin. Our waiter discussed the etymology of bouillabaisse with us, which, when broken down to bouillir à la baisse, translates to “boil and reduce.” We further went into the difference between riz (rice) and ris (glands). I never did get around to asking what Le Baratin actually meant, although I suppose I could have asked any of the French-speaking patrons at nearby tables for the translation. The little place that used to be home to the Lafayette French Pastry bakery feels like it has been around for years and is charmingly thrown together with ragtag bric-a-brac alongside with artist Mark Sehl’s assorted fine sketches to enhance the proceedings.
As we sat down at our simple table colored by red-and-white checkerboard napkins, we readily acclimated to this new venture with a fizzy Kir Royal comprised of Champagne and Crème de Cassis, the blackcurrant liqueur. It was a pleasant diversion, and although we probably hadn’t had one since the ’80s, we sipped it with delight just the same. We moved on to a bottle of a crisply dry French Sancerre that tasted wonderfully green, like draping, enveloping vines, and that duly suited us through the rest of our meal.
Onion soup was a rather obvious choice but didn’t disappoint—full-flavored and served in an earthenware crock cloaked with browned cheese, natch. Chewy Escargots Persillade (that’s snails with parsley to you and me, bub) were steaming hot, garlicky, buttery and delicious with a flutter of chopped parsley strewn about the little vessel. The pan-seared foie gras was only fair, however—a little undercooked for my taste and not overly flavorful. But we did enjoy the accompanying caramelized compote with Granny Smith apples and mangoes dressed in a balsamic drizzle. Fine hand-chopped steak tartare was chunky, fresh and deeply rosy pink, enlivened by minced white onions, parsley and a bracing stream of red pepper aioli.
We took to the crispy sweetbreads (thalamus glands, or the ris in question) and they were decent, surrounded by cubed carrots, squash, zucchini and peas plus a smattering of thyme. We considered the Côte de Boeuf, a grass-fed rib eye meant for two, but we found our main meat elsewhere. Medium-rare duck was a winner, served with charming bundles of verdant haricots verts wrapped in bacon! A zesty orange gastrique was a clever touch and we enjoyed the mashed potatoes with grainy Dijon mustard in an a l’ancien preparation, similar to Lyonnaise potatoes.
It was hardly a matter of consideration to order the chilled chocolate mousse! Amid the creaminess, pieces of dark chocolate filled the ramekin that was outfitted with dollops of whipped cream. We did share it, though, to leave our dignity somewhat intact, and settled on a conviction to return to Le Baratin posthaste!
Prices: Appetizers: $9–$18; Entrées: $16–$34; Alcohol: wine, beer, specialty cocktails