Pros: Tip-top ingredients, creative cooking, friendly atmosphere and service, reasonable prices
Cons: Rather noisy, uncomfortable stools
After enjoying two utterly delightful meals at Frenchie soon after it opened in 2009, I wanted to go back often and introduce friends to that pocket-sized restaurant with delectable food, but all my valiant efforts to get another reservation failed. On the rare occasions when I was able to get through on the phone, the restaurant was already booked for the dates I requested. Frustrated and disappointed, I resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never eat there again.
Then came the great news that in June chef-owner Gregory Marchand had opened Frenchie Wine Bar just across the street from the original restaurant and that it didn’t take reservations. That meant a possible wait for a table, but who cared? I just wanted to eat Marchand’s food again.
To try and avoid waiting, my plan was to meet a friend there at 7:30 p.m., since most French people wouldn’t be caught dead eating dinner before 8:30. It worked, but only just. Almost every seat was already taken, but Colin had managed to nab a table for four (which we were asked to vacate for another table in the middle of our meal to accommodate more diners, but we didn’t mind since we had been forewarned of this eventuality).
The wine bar offers large portions of tapas-style dishes, currently trendy in Paris and a format I happen to love since it offers the possibility of tasting many different things. Also trendy in Paris at the moment are high tables with stools, which can be surprisingly comfortable (at Les Cocottes de Christian Constant, for example, or Playtime). Unfortunately, the tractor-seat stools at Frenchie Wine Bar were wobbly and slippery, and there were no crossbars near the bottom of the table to brace your feet on, but by the end of the evening we had forgotten about this slight drawback.
Why? Because of the food, of course, prepared by Marchand and Harry Cummins, who had worked with Marchand at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant 15 in London and is now running the wine bar.
We started with the ventrêche de porc noir de Bigorre, which might look like raw bacon but tastes like pig heaven as it melts on the tongue. I greedily popped slice after slice into my mouth and didn’t want to stop. Until, that is, the next
dish arrived: equally addictive paper-thin slices of culatello, Italy’s primo prosciutto, served with tiny pickled chanterelles.
Both dishes were proof of the extreme high quality of the ingredients used by Frenchie, but didn’t show off the chefs’ cooking talents. The next two dishes did. Two years ago, I had loved (and copied at home) Marchand’s salad of burrata (a divinely creamy type of mozzarella) with peaches, basil and olive oil, and I was pleased to find a version of it on the menu, this time made with figs, since they are now in season, their flavor heightened by a touch of balsamic vinegar. Sublime, especially when paired with the glass of La Grande Tiphaine Bécarré from the Touraine suggested by the unfailingly cheerful, wine-savvy waiter (a wide variety of wine is available by the glass; ask him for suggestions).
The next dish – albacore with green beans, pickled onions and tiny rounds of red pepper – was spectacularly refreshing and flavorful with its limey sauce and panoply of fresh herbs.
The desserts were no disappointment. There were only two, so we ordered them both. The pot au chocolat topped with a raspberry sauce was rich, unctuous and intensely chocolatey. The tarte amandine aux quetsches was perfect, with its melt-in-the-mouth short crust and plum filling.
As noted above, the service, although sometimes a bit slow in coming, since one waiter was handling every table, was so good-natured that all was forgiven. When the waiter realized he had given us the wrong dessert wine, for example, he insisted on refilling our glasses with the right one, gratis.
Frenchie Wine Bar – whose simple decor consists of exposed stone walls, a zinc bar and Edison bulbs hanging from a grid of copper pipes – is small, cramped and noisy, but this is not the kind of place you would go to for, say, a business meeting. You go there to revel in the food, chat with diners sharing your table and with the chef, and generally have a great time. Now that I have been re-Frenchified, I plan to return regularly.Favorite