Chez Ma Tante duo Aidan O’Neal and Jake Leiber’s new Williamsburg brasserie inside the Wythe Hotel, Le Crocodile, scooped up a major nod of approval from New York Times critic Pete Wells, who gave the restaurant three stars writing that the food “shows great skill and self-assurance with very little preening and self-consciousness.”
Despite the long menu, Wells finds nearly every dish to be flawless at a restaurant that focuses on the New York-ish version of brasseries similar to Balthazar and the Odeon.
In a New York brasserie you almost never see choucroute, but you may well see Jonah crab salad, which at Le Crocodile, is stirred with yuzukosho mayonnaise and sits on a cushion of avocado purée. It’s delicious. So are other cold things from the raw bar: sea scallops in a spicy green pool of parsley juice, herbs and lemon; Wellfleet oysters, their deep pearly cups holding a splash or two of bay water.
Aside from the raw bar, his favorites appear to be the onion soup which he describes as “velvety,” the pickled mussels, and the restaurant’s take on salad lyonnaise where the lardons are replaced with smoked eel.
Equal praise is heaped on the cavernous setting with its massive windows, red brick walls, and double height ceiling, all reminders of when this space was home to Andrew Tarlow’s Reynard. Of Le Crocodile Wells writes, “It’s a place where people, or at least Brooklynites, want to sit and stay.”
O’Neal and Lieber opened Le Crocodile in December as a follow-up to their hit Greenpoint Canadian-ish restaurant Chez Ma Tante, which received rave reviews from critics following its opening in 2017. The duo aren’t unfamiliar with the Wythe either. Jon Neidich of Golden Age Hospitality, who took over the food and beverage program at the Williamsburg hotel last year brought on the duo to do food at the rooftop bar Lemon’s. Three stars.