Zucco Le French Diner - great little french restaurant
This is a French place on the LES that is a block or two away from my new apartment and it looked cool, so we decided to try it last night.
It's a really small place with two 2 person tables, two 2 person high tables and a counter that probably fits 8-10 seats. The kitchen is right behind the counter, so it really is a "diner". It's a dark place with brick walls and french pop music playing and its got lots of photos, pictures and posters on the wall. The feel and decor of the restaurant very much reminds me of the seriously local places my french friends took me to all over France when i visit that have good unpretentious hearty french food that is reasonably priced. There was about a 15-20 minute wait b/c you can't make reservations and there obviously aren't many seats.
The owner named Zucco is sort of a french hippie / bohemian looking guy with long hair and a beard, who is a really nice guy, he came by several times and asked us how the food was, what we thought about certain things etc.
Here's what we ordered:
- fresh bread: they give you this at the beginning of the meal and their bread is very good, piping hot, crispy crust and soft great interior, hit with some butter and its very good
- La Pette Assiette (charcuterie plate): they have a big and small option, since there was only two of us, we just got the small plate. It had pate, hard salami, ham, a duck pate, those little pickles (i can never remember what they're called), olives and toast. The pate was very good, tasted homemade (not packaged) and was great w/ the toast / bread (i'm a huge pate fan). The duck pate was interesting b/c i've never had it before, i wasn't even sure what it was when it was first put down. It comes in a small metal container (the type of container you would put butter in) and its not like normal pate as this pate actual had the duck meat in it, anyhow it has the sort of creamy rich flavor that pate has with duck meat in it and i thought it was very good. The salami, ham etc were good albeit pretty standard. I was happy with this dish.
- Le Cassoulet De Castelnaudary : i got this, this was a served in a casserole dish. It's baked duck confit, garlic sausage, french southwest sausage, big slab of pork belly, bean stew & tomatoes, topped w/ bread crumbs. Everything is covered in beans and as you can imagine from the description its a very hearty type casserole / stew type thing (good on a cold night). It was a ton of food (honestly my gf and i probably could've just shared this). It was good, not too salty, the best thing was the pork belly which was rich and fatty and delicious and i always like duck confit.
- steak w/ peppercorn sauce and frites: this was excellent, simply steak frites with a peppercorn sauce. The frites (fries) were good especially when you dip them in the peppercorn sauce (which was excellent, not too salty, creamy and just generally good), steak was solid and i really liked this dish. Highly recommend.
- Wine: I got a bottle of Cotes Du Rhone, I forgot the exact vineyard (i hadn't heard of it before anyhow). It was a pretty good especially for the price ($25), nice light body wine, not too dry and not alot of tannin and went well with the food. They also give you those really small glasses that you sometimes get in France.
Overall, I thought this place was very good and a fun place although I wouldn't go here with more than 2 people (3 people max) b/c its so small. I loved the atmosphere (very french) and the owner is a very nice guy. This is the type of local place that really only exists in places like NYC (in the US) and I definitely recommend coming here.
The "duck pate" with pieces of duck meat in it - that's called rillettes. It's made by blending together duck fat and shredded duck meat with lots of lovely seasoning. It's also made with goose or pork. One of my favorite dishes, along with duck confit. I'm putting Zucco on my list. Thanks!
I'm a fan of this place as well. The French Onion soup is great, and I had a similarly positive experience with my steak au poivre. I also highly recommend the ratatouille here, it's incredibly flavorful and delightfully peppery.
Oh, and the controversial rolls.... rumor has it that they're the pillsbury bake-and-serve varietal. Certainly not authentic French, but there are a lot of places in the city that serve far worse bread.