There are bands you’ll go see just because someone has an extra ticket, and there are bands that you really get up for. Frenchette in Tribeca is a restaurant that we always get up for. This place seems to have one goal, and it's to make your eyes roll back into your head because you haven’t tasted anything so rich and decadent in a very long time.
While the food here is predominantly and unapologetically French, you won’t see a ton of classic preparations of dishes like coq au vin or escargots in garlic and butter. Instead, you’ll find beignets with smoked eel and escargots over creamy scrambled eggs. We strongly advise that you start every meal here with at least one item from the “Amuse” portion of the menu. Two standouts among these starters are the cod cheeks dressed with a bright orange butter sauce and the razor clams with leeks and fennel. True to the title of this section, these perfectly-composed small bites won’t put a dent in your appetite, but they will leave you looking forward to what’s to come.
Every section of Frenchette's menu (including wines by the glass) varies from one day to the next. Owners Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr, who both cooked at Balthazar, are clearly not interested in dishes that remain unchanged for decades. We've seen three different preparations of duck here—and, if you’re lucky enough to come on a night when it’s available, order the duck frites. It's seared to medium rare with crackly skin covering a visibly thick layer of fat, and it comes with a side of béarnaise (which is just as important for the fries as it is for the duck). You should also get at least one baguette for the table. The various rich sauces you'll encounter throughout your meal demand this.
With its worn wood floors and dimly-lit atmosphere, Frenchette feels warm and familiar—as if this place has been around since before Twitter existed (although it’s only been open since 2018). During peak dining hours, the room can get frenetic and loud, but in a way that makes you remember why you live in this city. If you want to stop by for an impromptu meal or something from their all-natural wine list, it’s often easy to walk in and get a seat in the bar area. But if you’re celebrating a special occasion, book a table in the dining room a few weeks in advance, then spend a couple of hours here working your way through the menu.
Given how many great places there are to eat in NYC, the question “What are your favorite restaurants?” can be a hard one to answer (even for us). It’s kind of like asking: “Are you happy?” A little more context would be nice. That being said, we’re glad restaurants like Frenchette exist, because they make answering that way-too-general restaurant question a whole lot easier.
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A note on the menu: The items below may not be available on the day that you visit. In addition, specific ingredients in each dish may be different from what's listed.
What makes the tiny slivers of razor clams in this starter so good is the top layer of buttery and browned breadcrumbs. These breadcrumbs should be the new standard thing to sprinkle on food after salt and pepper. (You’ll see them in a few other dishes here.)
Cod Cheeks À La Diable
About the size of large scallops, these cheeks have a slight kick from the espelette chili peppers in the butter sauce, and their texture is close to that of steamed lobster. Get this amuse if it’s on the menu. (If it’s not, we feel sorry for you.)
These dumplings, which come with thin bits of ham and a Comté sauce, have a crisped exterior and are pillowy soft on the inside. However, you should know that this dish is made with only flour, so you won’t get the bouncy texture of potato gnocchi, and the whole thing could use more Comté sauce. You'll enjoy the first few bites, but you might get tired of this quickly.
This bowl of soft scramble is one of Frenchette’s signature dishes, and the consistency is closer to a thick soup than it is to, say, silken tofu. Some of the rotating ingredients (like escargots) work better than others (the bottarga gets lost). The butter is pronounced in this dish, and the eggs lean salty, which is all the more reason to order a baguette on the side.
Sliced plump duck breast and fries—pretty straightforward and entirely delightful. It’s hard not to love this if you’re into duck, and it's ideal to split between two people. If you rendered all the fat from this dish, you could probably fill an entire coffee mug. (That’s meant to be an endorsement.)
Aile De Raie Grenobloise
Skate can be firm, but the meat in this dish is so tender that it falls off the bones in thin strands. It reminds us of shredded crab meat. Capers add a subtle but essential contrast to the lemon butter sauce, which (no surprise) is very rich.
Paris-Brest À La Pistache
On one occasion, the party next to us would not let us start on this flaky and crumbly dessert until somebody (anybody) took a picture. This classic pastry is made with pâte à choux baked in the shape of a ring, sliced in half, and filled with a dense and slightly salty pistachio cream. It’s a lot for one person—but even if you happen to be dining alone, you still shouldn't skip it.