Two classic bistros and a brasserie
Bistro Pierre Lapin New York City
To anyone who recalls Manhattan when it was littered with humble French bistros, this 10-month-old venture will seem “a homage of impressive intensity,” said Pete Wells in The New York Times. At Pierre Lapin, Edith Piaf plays softly on the speakers and green gingham curtains hang just high enough to block a passerby’s view in. Most importantly, the place has “that rich, creamy, antique cooking—all the stuff nouvelle tried to kill.” Chef Harold Moore has always favored rich sauces and generous portions, but “none of Moore’s previous kitchens went for the gut as gleefully”: You could make a dinner of the baguette and rustic pork paté that arrives before the appetizers, and one of Moore’s most memorable entrées is a free-for-all of gnocchi, foie gras, sweetbreads, chicken dumplings, and mushrooms under a Cognac cream sauce. Though the dish “sounds insanely overcrowded,” it’s “very rewarding to unpack.” The menu probably should be pared down, as a few dishes could be, but “Moore’s shambolic, celebratory cooking is one of the reasons Pierre Lapin works as well as it does.” 99 Bank St., (212) 858-6600
Primrose Washington, D.C.
“If you’ve ever strolled the streets of Paris, Primrose is likely to spark déjà vu,” said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. Instagrammable ostrich-feather chandeliers are show stealers in the dining room, but the place is packed with details that seem lifted from a well-seasoned Parisian bistro. In the kitchen, chef Jonathan De Paz is re-energizing French classics. His onion soup, sealed with aged Gruyère, features a robust broth made with mushroom and seaweed rather than beef stock. His roast chicken, a credit to his training at Napa Valley’s French Laundry, gets “a bit of sweetness and sass” from a brown sugar–and-chile brine, and is basted with date juice while it cooks. Braised oxtails are another standout, and say “mais oui” to the steak frites, highlighted by double-blanched fries served with a béarnaise sauce. A few dishes disappoint, but you can depend on every wine recommendation offered by Sebastian Zutant, who, with designer Lauren Winter, owns and operates “the coziest boîte in Washington.” 3000 12th St. NE, (202) 248-4558
Brasserie at Bazati Atlanta
“Chef Rémi Granger has an advantage over others who’ve been trying to invigorate French cuisine in Atlanta: He’s actually French,” said Christiane Lauterbach in Atlanta magazine. Though he has been cooking in some of our city’s best restaurants for years, he was born and raised in the Loire Valley, so it’s natural that he now aspires to establish himself as the consensus best French chef in town. At Bazati, a “jaw-dropping” retail-dining complex that sits beside the BeltLine bicycle trail, Granger is already producing “textbook” presentations of many classics. His escargots with maître d’hôtel butter, his haricots verts with black garlic puree, and his lentil salad glistening like caviar “identify him as a Frenchman,” and “even brunch, often a money-squeezing afterthought for a restaurant, is a delight.” The waitstaff isn’t yet working at Granger’s level, and the room, a converted warehouse space with a soaring ceiling, isn’t ideal. So ask for a table on the gorgeous patio near the BeltLine. “It’s not the Seine, but the stream of cyclists, Bird riders, and stroller pushers has a je ne sais quoi all its own.” 550 Somerset Terrace, (404) 795-8342