Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater New York where the site’s editors, reporters, and critics answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.
I'm looking for a cozy French restaurant that doesn't completely break the bank to celebrate my boyfriend finishing his first semester of law school. He loves French food, but it's been tricky to find a place that's somewhere between the kitschy old bistros and the luxurious prix fixe places. I'm hoping for a place that's not too stuffy, but still nice enough to feel like something special. We've been to Buvette and loved it, and I have daydreams about Le Coucou, but that splurge is being saved for a bigger celebration down the line!
Need An Unstuffy Bistro
My first impulse was to offer you one of the intimate French bistros that have been around for a long time, places like La Ripaille on picturesque Abingdon Square or Tout Va Bien in the Theater District. These certainly evoke the idea of “cozy French restaurant;” on the other hand I sense you and your boyfriend want to dine in a more modern setting, not elbowed by tourists.
You don’t specify a borough or neighborhood, and so while I won’t send you out to Bay Ridge or Carroll Gardens (where there are some quite good and inexpensive French restaurants) I believe the Upper East Side won’t be too far out of your way, and in this case will give you a chance to ride the Q train and admire the art work in the stations.
That will make a nice prelude to Jean Claude II, a modern French bistro with a menu that includes all the classics. The room evokes the bistros of Paris with tall red banquettes, an eye-level wrap-around mirror, and some modest but not overbearing signage. The wine list is more than adequate and modestly priced, while the bill of fare runs to such favorites as coquilles Saint-Jacques (seared scallops in cream sauce), l'onglet aux echalottes (hanger steak with shallots), and poulet roti (roast chicken with a mushroom-truffle vinaigrette). For dessert there’s crème brulee or a perfect chocolate mousse.
Dinner will likely run you around $60 apiece. Let me know how you like it!