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Will the real French Bistro please stand up.

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spanacopita May 18, 2007 09:17 AM

The Genuine Article?
After my first venture in to the blog-ing arena .
( my wife prevented me from trying the on line dating thing)
I found my self in an exchange with some very diehard foodies?
Our exchange over “the New Bliss” revolved around authentic cuisine.
Now I am on the hunt for The Genuine Article, Real cuisine produced largely by its native peoples.
Sure anyone can learn to replicate foods from other cultures.
A great many restaurants with good intent have succumb to bastardizing their cultural heritage trying to please everyone.
For example salmon is not indigenous to certain cuisines an yet you will find it on the menu.
A great many people want to claim they like the food from that country but will not try anything they are not familiar with.
Or even worst many restaurateurs will, with out shame pretend to be something they are not.
This is the culinary equivalent to buying a fake PRADA handbag just to fit in.
Department store mannequins are looking more realistic everyday just don’t ask one what her favorite restaurant is and why.
I am looking for a restaurant that is not all about making a fast buck and false pretence.

So I am asking for suggestions on restaurants with character and integrity.
No fast food places.
Not in Manhattan.
Must be owned (or operated by 60% natives) of that cuisine.

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  1. w
    Widmark RE: spanacopita May 18, 2007 09:39 AM

    Bachus in Boerum Hill is a french bistro, but all their chefs are certainly not french.

    Pit Stop on Columbia St in brooklyn, same thing.

    They are both good.

    1. o
      orzabelle RE: spanacopita May 18, 2007 09:48 AM

      You may easily find 'owned by 60% natives,' but I doubt you will find the same % for operated.

      1. thievery RE: spanacopita May 18, 2007 10:12 AM

        FADA in williamsburg was owned by 2 natives of southern france, Pascal & Roman (they had a falling out and now owned by one of them -- Pascal). Their head chef (Phillipe) was french and when he started he spoke very little french... he's moved back to Paris for a few months to help a friend get a brasserie off the ground.

        That said... the foods only okay... like a bistro in france, no burgers or croque monsieur at dinner time, but there are non-traditional french items on the menu. But then having lived in cities in france, most bistros there don't serve exclusively french food either... Don't know if they're still doing it, but their late afternoon tapas had a good selection of hard to find nicoise fare.

        1. c
          Claire RE: spanacopita May 18, 2007 11:41 AM

          Gribouille in Williamsburg is French owned with a French chef. It's small, charming with a limited but good menu. They're a little pricey, but they offer a 3-course prixe fixe dinner menu for $24.95.

          1. f
            Fleur RE: spanacopita May 18, 2007 03:02 PM

            Le Petit Marche is Brooklyn Heights has excellent French Bistro food. The husband and wife team run a lovely restaurant. The setting is attractive, the service excellent, the wine list good. The food is Classic French Bourgeoise Cuisine. They are fairly new, but have already established a loyal neighborhood following, with larger crowds on the weekend.

            Nothing pretentious or "faux" about the setting, food, or owners.

            BTW : You don't have to be French to turn out great French Food. Many American chefs and cooks have trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and have apprenticed at fine restaurants in France.

            1. b
              bhill RE: spanacopita May 18, 2007 04:48 PM

              Here are the restaurants with which I have experience.

              Robin des Bois (Smith St.) is french owned, and at least half the wait-staff are french. Actually, almost all of the waiters are french speakers, whether it be french, canadian, etc. The menu is a little all over the place, but it's very casual.

              360 in Red Hook is another French-owned restaurant, and is really very good. Probably on the high end of all the restaurants in Brooklyn.

              Bar Tabac (Smith St.) is definitely french owned and has a more traditional menu. However, very few of the waitstaff are friench as of this moment.

              I know that Patois (Smith St. ) is not french-owned but it is decent.

              I would not recomment Fada. I have only had poor experiences there at dinner, though the breakfast is nice.

              Cafe Luluc (Smith st) is pretty good, though nothing special. I don't know about their ownership.

              Others that I haven't tried or don't remember enough about that you might look into:

              Quercy (Cobble Hill)
              Jolie (Boerum Hill)
              Juliette (Williamsburg)
              Cocotte (Park Slope)

              Wow... this makes me realize I eat WAY too much french food!

              1. r
                racer x RE: spanacopita May 20, 2007 12:10 PM

                I think I get the idea of what you are looking for:
                According to this approach, a sushi restaurant owned by Italian Americans, with a sushi chef from Weekawken, wouldn't be considered a "genuine" Japanese sushi restaurant.
                But, philosophically, I am sure there are purists who would argue that there are NO "genuine" French bistros outside of France. Terroire and all that ...

                (Having said that, I am as interested as anybody at seeing what other local suggestions CH readers will come up with!)

                1. Astoria Lurker RE: spanacopita May 20, 2007 03:42 PM

                  Tournesol and Cafe Henri, both in LIC

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Astoria Lurker
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                    leslie900 RE: Astoria Lurker Oct 17, 2007 05:58 PM

                    I just had a really terrific simple dinner at Cafe Henri, (well, if you disregard the fantastic lemon tarte and chocolate mousse) now the question is; if they are owned by the folks who own Le Gamin in NYC, now owned, I think, by Jean Claude, who owns Jean Claude's- then they are definitely french owned!! And, I happen to have had some not so great dining experiences at french owned places near by that were mediocre on 2 or more occasions. So, authentic ethnicity is not a guarantee. This is my new fave!

                    1. re: Astoria Lurker
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                      cobbler RE: Astoria Lurker Oct 19, 2007 02:20 PM

                      i second tournesol.

                    2. f
                      Fleur RE: spanacopita May 20, 2007 09:54 PM

                      We took visiting French friends out to dinner this weekend at Le Petit Marche.

                      They were thrilled with the restaurant, and felt very much at home. Happy and surprised to find wonderful French food locally, here in Brooklyn.

                      Our dinners, with starters of Salade aux Chevre Brulee, Artichaut Farci, Charcuterie Maison were excellent. The main dishes of Steak Frites, perfectly cooked, Moules Frites, again, deliciously prepared and very fresh, Fresh Cod with a Ragout of White Beans , Tomato, and Chorizo, and Lamb Shank with Couscous were all outstanding.

                      The desserts, Tarte Tatin, served with Cinnamon Ice Cream, Profiteroles with Hazelnut Ice cream, and a Chocolate Souffle-cake were all wonderful. Petits fours Maison were served with the cafe.

                      I lived in France for 14 years, my DH has been there often, our guests are very French, from Bordeaux and in the wine business. We all know French food and wine very, very well.

                      Good food is wonderful, no matter what the ethnic origins of the Chef. Demanding "ethnic purity" as a criterion in judging a restaurant, instead of the quality and integrity of the food, ambiance and service, is, IMHO, totally ridiculous.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: Fleur
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                        spanacopita RE: Fleur May 21, 2007 10:32 AM

                        Hi guys
                        thanks for the feed back especially Fleur and RacerX.
                        My initial interest was more in keeping with an archaeological dig.
                        With the whole Fusion confusion restaurant brain drain going on finding the genuine article is worth the effort.
                        I would like to expand my search beyond French Food. A friend of mine told me of a restaurant in Woodside called Sripaphai ? he gave me the spelling.
                        It is supposed to be the real thing for Thai food. I'm planning on hailing a tuk tuk and heading over next week.

                        1. re: spanacopita
                          Astoria Lurker RE: spanacopita May 21, 2007 10:42 AM

                          The correct spelling is Sripraphai, and other than Di Fara, I can't think of a place that has more followers on this board. Definitely check it out, I doubt you will regret it.

                        2. re: Fleur
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                          sharonm RE: Fleur May 21, 2007 10:59 AM

                          While the owners of a restaurant may be French, or of their country of origin, let's not forget that most of the kitchen workers, will be from South America, or American as this is America. It is ridiculous to think a restaurant outside of France will have a mostly french kitchen. After going to a prestigious Culinary Institute, I think I should be able to choose the cuisine I'd like to concentrate in regardless of my ethnicity. Four years of college French continue to inspire though I've never lived there.

                          1. re: sharonm
                            bobjbkln RE: sharonm May 21, 2007 08:50 PM

                            D'accord <s> (sourire)

                            1. re: sharonm
                              s
                              spanacopita RE: sharonm May 27, 2007 08:56 AM

                              Hi Sharonm
                              As I said in my original post Any one can learn how to replicate (cook) foods from other cultures.
                              And going to a prestigious culinary institute is a great way to begin a career.
                              What restaurants have you worked in and where did you go to culinary school?
                              Foods prepared from ALL of the different cultures from all over the world are shaped by it's people their history and the land .
                              Traditions are handed down from generation to generation "a legacy"
                              I believe that if you identify you restaurant as any particular cuisine type you should have some truth in the claim.
                              To many desperate restaurateurs will use a false identity because it is a popular one.
                              Part of the blame also falls on the people who accept what they are experiencing as good enough.
                              What got me started was an experience dinning in a restaurant that had identified itself as French and not one person in the entire restaurant was French, not one.

                              Sharonm I hope you have the opportunity to work in good restaurants that have integrity.
                              Also I would like to reiterate from my second post in this string that I am very interested in authentic cuisine from any culture. So any suggestions?

                          2. e
                            el chilateo RE: spanacopita May 23, 2007 08:44 AM

                            Absolutely correct, the French workforce is not as great as the latin one. But Tournesol in LIC, Fada in Williamsburg and Bar Tabac on Smith Street are good choices... Barzola on Meserole Street is 100% Ecuadorian, Bahia on Metropolitan is 100% Salvadorian ( Well one of the owner is married to an Italian lady), Casa Mon Amour is over 80% Dominican, it is owned by a French lady very much in love with the island) but run with a Dominican Staff... It is after all, what NY is about.

                            1. k
                              kvw RE: spanacopita May 24, 2007 07:24 AM

                              Quercy is very very good, owned by the very French Jean-Francois, who also owns La Luncheonette in Chelsea. Fabulous skate, endive salad, au poivre, lentils, etc.

                              1. n
                                nokitsch RE: spanacopita May 24, 2007 07:27 AM

                                Is Banania Cafe on Smith still open? It's definitely French owned/operated - same guys who own Jean-Claude in Soho.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: nokitsch
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                                  mpls brat RE: nokitsch May 27, 2007 07:37 AM

                                  it's not called banania anymore- It was porchetta for a minute, but I think that is closed now too. Someone who lives across the street update us!

                                  1. re: mpls brat
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                                    mpls brat RE: mpls brat May 27, 2007 07:47 AM

                                    i will now update my self- its "carniceria" now.

                                    1. re: mpls brat
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                                      Larry Brooks RE: mpls brat Oct 19, 2007 05:41 PM

                                      and " carniceria" in now, also...closed.

                                2. j
                                  Jadro_Staad RE: spanacopita Oct 21, 2007 06:05 PM

                                  With respect to REAL French cuisine, I would suggest targeting French Regional Cuisine as opposed to the French Bistro model which is more of an amalgamation of Pan-Franco staples that have been reproduced infinitely by non-native French nationals even within France itself.

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