Claud is an East Village wine bar that, according to their website, seeks to “replicate [the] vibe” of European dining. The only vibe Claud is replicating is that of a trendy downtown restaurant with excellent food. While it won’t transport you to Europe, you will have a great meal in a well-designed space that will make you wish you could move in.
When you walk into Claud, the first thing you’ll notice is the crowd. Since the day it opened, this restaurant has been hard to get into, thanks to the enduring buzz of the term “Momofuku alumn.” The interior, with its off-beige walls, natural wood accents, and minimalist lighting fixtures, feels like an expensive apartment in the East Village, giving the whole restaurant the air of an exclusive house party. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the one table that butts up against the open kitchen. It’s the best-lit, closest-to-the-action seat in the house.
The food swings between references to classic continental dishes and delicious takes on the same things everyone else who’s getting their produce from the Hudson Valley is making. You’ll see dishes like blistered Jimmy Nardello peppers in early September, as well as nods to classic European dishes that don’t resort to predictable remixes. A good example is the swordfish au poivre, a steak-like cut of tender fish smothered in a vibrant, floral green peppercorn sauce.
Start with the razor clams, which are bright and pleasantly saline, with a hint of sweetness and spice from the topping of grated apple and horseradish. Next, try the dish of pillowy agnolotti stuffed with chicken liver and drowned in browned butter. It’s obscenely rich, and absolutely necessary. Finish with the many-layered slab of devil’s food cake, reminiscent of Miss Trunchbull’s prized dessert from Matilda. On the side, order a chilled metal coupe of ice cream, preferably one with some kind of fruity, tangy ripple to offset the bittersweet notes of the cake.
You will probably have to go through some effort to get a reservation for the foreseeable future, but it’s worth it. After all, there’s that fantastic chocolate cake at the end. No, it’s not a substitute for a European vacation, but you’ll still have a memorable meal.
Besides the chocolate cake, this is our other favorite dish. The combination of grated apple and horseradish perfectly complements the slightly sweet, saline taste of the razor clams. It’s one of the best raw bar dishes in New York.
Pickles and Rillette
We’ve had this in two variations: rabbit and duck. The rabbit was by far our favorite. When this dish is good, it’s a standout—but we’ve found it to be a bit inconsistent.
Crisp on the outside with almost custard-like interiors, these are plated to look almost like boulders covered in moss, calling to mind the forest of Fontainebleau.
Moses Sleeper Mille-Feuille with Confit Tomatoes
We can only hope that the team at Claud preserved a lot of tomatoes so they can keep this on the menu long after tomato season ends. This savory pastry layers shatteringly crisp puff with Jasper Hill’s take on a gooey French brie and deeply flavorful confit tomatoes. It’s one of the best dishes we ate all year.
Chicken Liver Agnolotti
No one needs delicate little agnolotti stuffed with perfect chicken liver and practically swimming in butter, but we’re glad it exists. It’s very rich, and very good.
Swordfish au Poivre
Claud's cheeky riff on steak au poivre swaps red meat for flaky swordfish and fruity, floral green peppercorns for the more typical black variety. We love it.
Half Chicken with Foie Drippings
This is a decent enough roast chicken, but it didn’t inspire us to write a poem about it or anything. The foie feels unnecessary here
Devil’s Food Cake for Two
This is without question the best piece of chocolate cake you can get in New York City. It has deep, bittersweet cocoa notes, cocoa nibs on the outside, and frosting that tastes like actual chocolate and not just butter and sugar. Order this at the beginning of your meal, because they tend to run out.
Some restaurants that make their own ice creams miss the mark in terms of texture or flavor, but if we could, we’d buy the ice cream at Claud by the pint. It’s velvety and smooth, and the flavors we’ve tried have always provided an especially good counterpoint to the chocolate cake thanks to things like fruity ripples and browned butter accents.