Chef duo Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson’s expertise has never been in the avant-garde. The restaurants they helped open — Keith McNally’s Balthazar, Pastis, Minetta Tavern — have instead become mainstays of New York, destinations for a hip clientele while serving fare that’s more reliable than it is innovative.
Their newest restaurant (and first solo project) Frenchette, opening today in Tribeca at 241 West Broadway between White and Walker streets, similarly aims to be the kind of place that’s more of a staple than a revolution. Like previous projects, Frenchette dishes out lots of French fare that doesn’t verge too far from the traditional. The menu will change regularly, but the differences won’t be drastic, such as a switch in the cut of meat used for the steak au poivre or a variation on the kind of offal served in the ris de veau. And though the space tones down on the washed out romance of Balthazar, it still reads as warm, with cushy leather banquettes and brassy chairs.
Nasr and Hanson, who have been working together for about two decades, say it’s a reflection of “who we are and what we are right now.” Their primary goal is to open a restaurant with “longevity,” with a bar room and a back dining room that will eventually be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night dining.
“We want this place to be around for a while,” Hanson says. “Part of your routine, a cornerstone of your dining repertoire,” Nasr adds. “[We want it to be] one of the places that you consistently go to and want to go to, be it celebrating a occasion or dropping in for a drink and a bite.”
The menu — in full, below — will have dishes like rotisserie lobster and a creamy soft-scrambled egg topped with escargot in garlic butter. Three or four lambs and perhaps a pig will land in the basement each week, where Nasr and Hanson’s team will break them down for entrees, blood sausages, and terrines. Though the chefs have been known for their meat dishes — see: the Minetta Tavern Black Label burger — here, they wanted to “celebrate vegetables” as well, with dishes that go beyond steakhouse sides like string beans and mashed potatoes, they say. One option involves charred carrots, za’atar, and labneh.
Frenchette’s food offerings will likely expand further in the future, but for now, the duo is sticking to essentials. Still, even in the future, don’t expect tons of adornments. “It’s not going to be dressed beyond what it is; we’re not gilding lilies,” Nasr says. “Things should be kind of very direct and honest. It’s kind of our philosophy: less is more.”
Frenchette is open from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. Stay tuned for expanded hours later.