When was the last time you dined at a French style bistro in NYC? Been a minute, right? And no, Pastis and Balthazar don’t really count. Well, it’s time to mix it up a bit and visit Calliope, a new restaurant in the East Village that’s about as close to a true Parisian bistro in New York as you can find right now.
If you haven’t heard of Calliope, all you need to do is open up any one of the major New York food publications last month, and you’ll see it on nearly everyone’s “Best of 2012″ list. It was actually one of the few on those lists that we hadn’t been to yet – partly because it was always booked solid, and partly because we just hadn’t prioritized it. I finally made it in a few times at the end of the year, just as Stang was tearing his way through some bistros of his own in Paris. So now we can officially tell you what everyone else already knew – Calliope is one of the best all around restaurants in the East Village, and it’s going to be a staple in the neighborhood for years to come.
We were blown away with the the food at Calliope. It’s a menu of updated French bistro classics, perfectly executed and made a bit more accessible to those either not familiar or not comfortable with the traditional bistro fare, like Tete de Porc. No detail is overlooked, and everything we ate here was memorable. From the warm table bread with a hint of anchovy, to the simplicity of a house salad with fresh lettuces and herbs, it’s subtleties most restaurants snooze on that makes Calliope a destination. The service is great, brunch is awesome, and there’s even a massive communal table in the middle for when you’re in need of a spot for Big Group dining. Just use caution if you have some pre-existing cholesterol problems. In true French style, every ounce of food in this place is loaded with butter, cream, and all kinds of other heavy goodness that makes stuff taste good.
House Smoked Sable
Four thick slices of perfectly smoked white fish come ready to be laid on toast and topped with accoutrements. An excellent way to kick off breakfast.
Brown Sugar Coffee Cake
As should any French establishment, Calliope does good work with the sweet stuff. Make sure you pay attention to all things cake, pastry, and dessert. This sticky brown sugar coffee cake was awesome.
Mixed Farm Lettuces
As alluded to above, the farm lettuce salad here is simple, yet carefully executed and delicious. A sampling of big leafy greens is topped with feta and scallions in a creamy dressing. We could have eaten five of these and will be ordering one every time we come back.
And on the 8th day, God created pancakes. The German kind. Boy, is this ridiculously unhealthy combination of crepe, French toast, and pancake amazing. I think there was probably a whole stick of butter used in its conception, too.
Perfectly poached eggs. Creamy Hollandaise. Warm ham. Crispy muffin. This is an incredible eggs benedict.
Usually fries don’t get their own item on the food rundown, but these deserve it. Skinny, short and crispy, these are the kinds of fries designed to be eaten by the fistful, not one at a time.
One of their signature dishes. Cold cut beef tongue is covered in a cold egg sauce with sweet white onions and mache lettuces. They bring you some toasted sourdough on the side to make the perfect open faced sandwich. Incredible.
Tete de Porc
I ordered this because it sounded like pork titty and I wanted to write that in a review. Well, it’s not the breast. It’s actually the meat from the face of a pig, cold cut style and topped with an awesesome combination of pickles, parsley, and shallots. Don’t be scared. It’s a good app for the table to share.
Dry-Aged New York Strip Steak
This is a gangster strip steak. Simple, subtle and loaded with flavor, this is $34 well spent.
One of their current seasonal pastas, we were quite impressed with the rags (like large torn pasta noodles). It’s in a creamy sauce with winter squash, sheep’s milk ricotta, and hazelnuts. Order it.
Hot and Sour Braised Lamb Neck
One of Calliope’s most popular dishes is another winner, and it’s something different. Shredded lamb in a hot and sour broth with with mascarpone stuffed agnolotti pasta, some hot sauce and olives. Order it.