I love a French bistro. Did y’all know that?
I love the elegance of formally dressed servers. I love the comfort of a basket of freshly baked, floury baguette on the table. I love the clatter of silverware, the hushed gossip at cozy booths, and the soft glow of tableside lamps or ancient crystal chandeliers.
Most of all, I love the food.
So, could I possibly love an updated version of all this at Keith McNally’s chic downtown eatery, Cherche Midi?
The restaurant’s interior is totally charming, if a little overheated on a recent unseasonably warm autumn evening. The feel is casual but still special enough to be a birthday meal. The cocktail list is well curated, the wines by the glass are fairly priced, and the service is far more attentive than it actually is in Paris. The bread brought to each table is pitch perfect. There are slightly sour slices, small, light loaves, and a ramekin of creamy sweet butter that is soft enough to spread with ease. It’s a simple but effective first taste of the restaurant that says “relax and order that bottle of rose….it’s going to be a great night.” Anchovy toasts with Parmesan dip
A bam-pow-punch of flavor! This is strong, salty, and a little fishy – if you aren’t into anchovy, you won’t like these toasts. However, if you are, then you will love these buttery, toasty soldiers that are laden with pungent anchovies and verdant herbs. Though they are outstanding with the accompanying dip, you might still like this dish, just using the plain bread as a dipper instead of the toasts. The dip is all things lovely. Soft, smooth, nutty, creamy, and savory. It’s a cross between gently scrambled eggs and a savory creme brulee. Try though you might, you will NOT be able to resist swiping your finger along the inside of the vessel to get every last morsel of this molten cheese wonder. This is the signature appetizer and with good reason. Steak tartare
A classic done classically well. Hand chopped beef that is tender but not mushy, mixed with diced shallots, capers, and a hint of spicy mustard. It’s creamy but not goopy, so the egg yolk must be applied judiciously. I did miss some more Tabasco sauce and wish that this was offered in an entree size – the appetizer size is too small for an entree size for even the tiniest of appetites.
Cherche Midi is adorable. It isn’t a great deal, but it’s what you expect to pay for a lovely meal in a trendy part of town.The food is delicious, the service is great, and the vibe is just what you crave.
It’s a little bit of Paris right on the Bowery.